Greenwich High entered Saturday's FCIAC quarterfinal against Staples' boys lacrosse team well aware of the damage the Wreckers' high-scoring duo of Joey Zelkowitz and Colin Bannon were capable of unleashing. So the Cardinals were determined to get defensive.
Making the Wreckers' top two scorers work exceptionally hard to get clear looks at the goal, the fourth-seeded Cardinals used a strong defensive effort to post an 11-8 win against No. 5 Staples at home.
With the win, Greenwich advanced to Tuesday's semifinals where it will face top-seeded Ridgefield at Brien McMahon High School at 7 p.m..
While the Cardinals were sound defensively, their offense was paced by multiple sources. Six different players scored in the first half, with midfielders Kyle Foote and Michael Ellsworth and attack Jamie Paradise each finishing with two goals.
"Our offense is moving the ball so well and they are working so well together," coach Scott Bulkley said. "They have been working so hard on their execution. You put six guys out there executing like that, it makes it very difficult on the defense."
On the other end of the field, longstick midfielder Shawn Dunster, Jack Harrington, Jack Nail, Griffin Tiedy and Nick Schepis made it difficult for the Wreckers to run their offense. Zelkowitz scored twice, but his second goal came with two seconds remaining in the second half for the Wreckers, who trailed 11-4 after three quarters.
"We just wanted to slide earlier and be able to get to No. 4 (Bannon) and 22 (Zelkowitz) before they could attempt to shoot," Dunster said. "We knew we needed to slow down their threats."
Said Bulkley: "Shawn started off as a short stick, but we had a lot of injuries to defense and he offered to play long pole. He has absolutely solidified our defense because of how hard he plays. Being the only senior on defense, he brings a lot of leadership."
Greenwich struck first as Paradise received a pass from senior Kelley Jaye and snapped a shot past Staples goalie Cole Gendels just 49 seconds into the first quarter. The Wreckers evened the score with a man-up goal by midfielder Will Johnson at the 10:10 mark.
With Greenwich running its settled offense, attack Luke Finneran scored off a feed from behind by John Tohir, making it 2-1 with 8:37 left in the first quarter. Four minutes later, Foote spun away from a defender and blasted a low shot inside the left post, putting the home team ahead 3-1. Bannon's goal with 2:11 to go in the opening quarter cut Greenwich's advantage to 3-2. Bannon snuck a shot by Greenwich goalie William Waesche (10 saves) with 9:07 remaining in the second quarter, knotting the score at 3-3.
After that, the Wreckers were held scoreless for almost 15 minutes, while the Cardinals tallied six goals.
"Their third, fourth and fifth offensive players are excellent," Staples coach Paul McNulty said. "They can do as much damage as their top scorers. They really have a lot of talent. Their goalie played like a playoff goalie and their faceoff guy (Graham Savio) was tough."
Ryan Flippin's goal gave the Cardinals a 6-3 lead, an advantage that would increase in the second half. Foote scored in a man-up situation and Sam Saleeby tallied, putting Staples in an 8-3 hole 2:13 into the second half. Another man-up goal, this one by Ellsworth, stretched the lead to 9-3.
GREENWICH 11, STAPLES 8
STAPLES 2 1 1 4 -- 8
GREENWICH 3 3 5 0 -- 11
Scoring: S -- Colin Bannon (3g, 1a), Will Johnson (2 g), Joey Zelkowitz (2 g), Jon Pacillo (1g, 1a). G -- Kyle Foote (2g, 3a) Jamie Paradise (2g, 1a), Will Gibian (1g, 2a), Michael Ellsworth (2g), Luke Finneran (1g), Cole Perry (1g), Ryan Flippin (1g), Sam Saleeby (1g). Goalies: S -- Cole Gendels (11 saves); G -- William Waesche (10). Records: Staples 13-4; Greenwich 13-4.