Ridgefield breaks Staples boys lacrosse's 18-game winning streak
Updated 12:04 am, Friday, April 15, 2011
All streaks eventually come to an end -- sooner or later.
The Staples boys lacrosse team's 18-game regular season winning streak is over.
For the first time since May 22, 2009 when it lost 12-11 in overtime in the regular-season finale at St. Joseph, Staples came up on the short end of the stick in a regular season game with a 10-6 loss at Ridgefield and dropped to 2-1. Ridgefield raised its record to 3-0.
"Going undefeated in the regular season last year was a big accomplishment," Wreckers Coach Paul McNulty said. "I'm only disappointed in the score and not the effort. We fell behind 5-0 in the score but came back and it's a good quality to have."
When the Tigers needed to make a big play, junior Sean Riley delivered. Riley scored two goals with an assist in the first quarter in giving Ridgefield a 5-0 lead after the opening quarter and finished the game with four goals and an assist.
Junior Sean Wilkinson had a goal and an assist in the first and finished the game with two goals and two assists. Seniors Andrew Buckanavage and Sam Waring also tallied goals for Ridgefield in the first quarter.
While the first quarter belonged to the Tigers, Staples owned the second quarter. Juniors Billy Lahiff and Peter Paul and senior Nick Maki scored goals for the Wreckers and senior tri-captain Charlie Ross assisted on Lahiff's goal to cut the deficit to two goals, 5-3 at the half.
Staples carried its momentum into the second half and kept on attacking. With 10:53 remaining in the third quarter, Paul scored from in front of the net after receiving a pass from sophomore Joey Zelkowitz to make it 5-4.
The Wreckers kept on attacking and had many chances to tie it with Paul, Lahiff, senior Ryan Hartmann and junior Jake Frimet kept on attacking the net but Ridgefield's defense was stout. Senior captain Travis Tiger and classmate Jordan Nachowitz limited Staples into taking benign shots, many going wide or routinely into the webbing of junior goalie Adam Winne.
When the Wreckers got off golden shots, Winne (18 saves) stonewalled them, robbing Ross, Paul, Frimet and Lahiff from point-blank range.
Staples senior goalie J.B. Breig was also sharp with 14 saves but with 12.4 seconds left in the third quarter, Wilkinson scored from Tiger to double the Tigers' lead to two, 6-4 after three quarters.
"That goal was huge and changed the [complexion] of the game," Riley said. "Ever since the goal, we never looked back."
McNulty said, "Their goalie played well. We had 10 shots in the fourth quarter and he made six saves in that quarter. If we kept going and tied it up, it would have made a difference. Their goal slowed our momentum but it didn't change the way we played. We still played very hard."
Wreckers senior tri-captain Matt Yeager anchored the defense with six ground balls. Classmate Greg Lewis and sophomore Lance Lonergan also played well defensively and came up with two ground balls each. Sophomore Quinn Mendelson (one ground ball) showed his aggressiveness and played well defensively too.
Ross (five), Maki (three) and Zelkowitz (three) were aggressive in going for the loose ball up top and also had ground balls.
Ridgefield junior Eric Scala scored from a slightly rightward angle to make it 7-4 with ward angle to make it 7-4 with 9:11 to go in the game. After Winne robbed Paul and Frimet, Riley scored the first of his two fourth-quarter. Riley then made it 9-4 off a centering pass from senior Matt Hrvatin with 4:05 left. Senior Aidan Scott closed out the scoring for the Tigers off a centering pass from Wilkinson with 3:05 remaining to make it 10-4.
Staples scored two goals after that with Zelkowitz scoring from Ross and Ross scoring from Maki, the latter with 1:00 left, but it was too little, too late.
"Ridgefield was our biggest test of the season and pushed us to the limit," Ross said.
Working against the Wreckers was the absence of senior tri-captain Kip Orban, who plans to play for Princeton University and was out with an injury.
"I don't know because they were missing one of their best defenders and it may have evened things out," McNulty said. "Teams miss players throughout the year and it's part of the game. They got a big lead but we hung in there to the end."
Ross said, "Kip's presence is irreplacable on the field because of his skills, leadership and ability to work with the offense and generate opportunities."
Although Orban was missed, Staples has other players capable of stepping up.
"The problem was mental, especially on offense because we see him as a leader," Yeager said. "It's a mental aspect when we lose hope. We have other playmakers but we lose our mental focus [when he's not in the lineup]."
Losing is not ideal but sometimes, it can be a blessing in disguise because going undefeated throughout the regular season and playoffs is almost impossible.
Just ask last year's team, who was 16-0 in the regular season but didn't win any titles.
"It's a wakeup call and it's a learning experience to know how to react when your best player is down," Yeager said. "I'd rather lose now than in the playoffs but it was a playoff atmosphere and I feel we threw away an opportunity. It was an intense atmosphere and we let down on defense and I take responsibility for it."
"Now we're playing with a chip on our shoulders," Ross said.