NEW FAIRFIELD -- Since starting the season 0-3, a young team headed for a rough slog, the New Fairfield boys lacrosse team has surged into contention in the South-West Conference by gobbling up ground balls, owning the faceoff circle and generally wearing down opponents that often feature more firepower on offense.
Or, as New Fairfield coach Marty Morgan put it after his team won its seventh straight, 15-12, over Brookfield Tuesday, the Rebels' turnaround has been built on heart.
Led by senior attacker Liam Moriarty, whom Morgan said best personifies that trait, the Rebels (9-4) seized control by dominating the pivotal third quarter, outscoring the visiting Bobcats 5-3 and depriving them of chances with a clock-eating, possessive strategy.
"We definitely had a tough start, and we have a young team, but in these last seven games, everybody's stepping up," said Moriarty, who converted three of his six shots for goals and assisted six others. "We're really coming together as a team whereas in the first couple games we just had a couple of guys doing it all themselves."
The Rebels also benefitted from a game-high six goals by Ryan Lewis, two goals and two assists from Kyle Lutinski, and a three-goal performance by Matt Altman. Ben Gioia took over faceoff duties at halftime, a switch that accounted for the Rebels' uptick in possession time, and also scored a pair.
"This is a good (Brookfield) team, they've got some good shooters, and we were trying to keep the ball out of their hands," Morgan said, adding of his team's progress, "Since the beginning of the year, we've just played with a lot more heart. We're still making some mistakes, a few bad decisions, but we're playing with a lot more heart, and that's making up for the mistakes. In the beginning, we were confused and unsure and not aggressive. Now that part of the game has come around."
The Bobcats (10-2) took their largest lead, at 4-2, with 22.7 seconds left in the opening quarter, but the Rebels' answer 14 seconds later set the tone for a back-and-forth first half.
Liam Clancy, Dane Heckmann and Shane Madden each tallied three goals for the Bobcats. Clancy added a team-high four assists.
"I think the game really turned with the groundball battle," said Brookfield coach Brian Loftus. "New Fairfield really won it, and that killed us. We got stuck playing a lot of defense, and the communication on defense was a little lower than I would have liked. They got up by four in the third quarter, and it's tough to come back when you don't have the ball."
BROOKFIELD...............................4 3 3 2 -- 12
NEW FAIRFIELD........................... 3 6 5 1 -- 15
Records: Brookfield 10-2, 2-2 SWC; New Fairfield 9-4.
Scoring: B -- Dane Heckmann 3g, 3a; Liam Clancy 3g, 4a; Shane Madden 3g, 2a; Gus Warner 1g; Tim Tremaglio 1g, 2a; J.T. Redd 1g. NF -- Liam Moriarty 3g, 6a; Kyle Lutinski 2g, 2a; Matt Altman 3g, 1a; Ryan Lewis 6g; Jake Ryan 1a; Ben Gioia 2g. Goalies: B -- Jacob Maddox (10 saves); NF -- Joe Carlucci (9 saves).