Wrecker laxmen knock Newtown from unbeaten ranks
Updated 4:48 pm, Friday, May 13, 2011
If a person's home is its castle, then Staples Football Stadium is the Staples boys lacrosse team's fortress.
The Wreckers play their most inspired lacrosse at home and it showed Wednesday in a convincing 17-8 victory over previously-unbeaten Newtown. Staples raised its overall record to 10-3, 6-0 at home. Newtown dropped to 11-1.
"It's our house and we feel we're defending something special," Wreckers senior tri-captain Matt Yeager said. "We try to play hard both on the road and at home but I guess it comes down to the mental aspect of playing at home. We approach all games the same but we take certain pride playing on this field because it represents who we are. I played on this field for four years and want to win on it. We don't take kindly to teams coming in here and trying to march in and beat us."
Of the six Staples wins at home, three came against quality opponents. The Wreckers are 2-3 against quality opponents on the road with the two wins coming against New York teams.
Going in, Staples knew it had to bring its `A' game because the Nighthawks didn't get 11 wins by accident with two of their victories coming against quality opponents.
"I saw Newtown play a couple of times and they are a good team," Wreckers Coach Paul McNulty said. "I asked them to play their best game of the season and they did. It comes from our senior leadership and the underclassmen followed their example and played their best game of the season."
Two years ago, second-seeded host Newtown defeated Staples 9-8 in overtime in the first round of the Class L playoffs. This game was an opportunity for payback for the Westporters and they were ready to take advantage of it.
"Losing 9-8 to them in States two years ago put a chip on our shoulders," Wreckers senior tri-captain Charlie Ross said. "Unfortunately, we didn't play them last year and this year, they were stronger than they were two years ago and this is why I think this win is monumental. It's also good because we had three losses against top FCIAC teams and it's a quality win and a good state win."
Staples never trailed in this game and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Sophomore defender Quinn Mendelson opened the scoring 55 seconds into the game and senior Nick Maki (three goals, four assists, three ground balls) performed like a playmaker in the first half and set up the next two goals. Maki found sophomore Joey Zelkowitz with 7:05 remaining in the first quarter and 27 seconds later, he centered it to Ross, who then flung it home.
"As a team, we were pissed we lost our three biggest games of the year and knew they were undefeated," Maki said. "As an offense, we worked on making the extra feed and we were able to do it today."
The Nighthawks fought back and cut the lead to one, 4-3 after one quarter. Wrecker senior tri-captain Kip Orban helped keep his team in front and scored its only goal in this sequence when he fired home a shot off a feed from Maki. Staples had many chances in this span but Newtown senior co-captain goalie Brandon Body (11 saves) made big saves on juniors Peter Paul and Billy Lahiff.
Junior Colby Summerlin (three goals) led the Nighthawks' offense and only 12 seconds into the second quarter, tied it 4-4. Newtown had a chance to take the lead but Mendelson (two ground balls) blocked a shot and forced a bad pass. Zelkowitz (two goals, two assists, two ground balls) and junior Adam Levinson (three ground balls) broke up a play and Yeager then swooped in to pick up the ground ball. Yeager also forced junior Justin Brophy (one goal, three ground balls) to shoot it wide. Junior Tom Jenkins (five ground balls) and sophomores Greg Strauss (one ground ball) and Lance Lonergan also made their presence felt on defense.
After Body stopped Maki from point-blank range, Orban intercepted his clear and then sent an airtight pass to Paul (two goals, one assist, two ground balls), who buried it with 7:00 left in the half and gave Staples a 5-4 lead.
Nighthawk senior Will Northrop circled the net and tied it 5-5 with 4:20 to go. Shortly thereafter, Summerlin had a chance to give Newtown the lead but Yeager broke up the play.
Ross then cleared the ball and gave it to Paul, who set up Orban with 2:20 left to give the Wreckers a 6-5 lead, which they never relinquished. Staples had a chance to add to its lead but the score remained 6-5 at the break.
The Wreckers came out strong in the second half and increased their lead to 7-5 on Maki's goal from Lahiff (two assists) 30 seconds into the third quarter. Maki was a marksman in the second half as he tallied two more goals.
"We've been working hard all week on our offense," Maki said. "At the beginning of the season, we weren't working well on offense, so we had to work on cutting through so no one can get to us."
Summerlin got it back 48 seconds later off a feed from senior co-captain Lewis Thompson to make it 7-6. However, the Nighthawks never got closer.
One thing Staples was successful at were draw controls with senior Greg Lewis winning two-thirds of his draws and the Wreckers claimed approximately three-quarters of their draws. Lewis (five ground balls) won the ensuing draw and Staples gained possession.
"Faceoffs are pretty routine, we work on them in practice and Matt [Yeager] did well in getting there from the wing," Lewis said. "Kip also won a few draws and Zelkowitz and Greg Straus did well on the wings."
Yeager (12 ground balls, one assist) played a major role in Lewis and Orban winning the draws because he was always there, ready to scoop up the ground ball and give the Wreckers possession.
"It's mostly Greg and Kip doing the work and they give me an opportunity to get the ball," Yeager said. "I play as if it's my last faceoff and Greg and Kip did a great job. Once the ball is free, it's my job to get it."
Orban then set up two goals, the first by junior Jake Frimet and the second one to Zelkowitz off a centering pass to make it 9-6 with 7:37 remaining in the third quarter.
"In the transition, I was able to handle the ball and the guys did a good job of getting open in the crease," Orban said.
Newtown cut the lead to two twice, the last one at 10-8, but Staples didn't let the Nighthawks get closer. Wrecker senior goalie JB Breig (nine saves) made some stops from point-blank range and Yeager anchored the defense.
"As the leader of the defense, I take accountability with how we played in the first half," said Yeager, who felt the defense could have played better before the break. "The offense played their best. Kip, Charlie, Nick and the rest of the offense carried the team. I give props to my goalie JB Breig, he's the heart of the team."
Orban was lethal shooting in the second half and made 12-8 with 4:09 to go off a feed from Ross.
"Some were good assists to me," Orban said. "Our offense did a good job moving the ball and it was tough for the defense to slide. I put it on the cage and they started to fall."
Yeager made a highlight film defensive play late in the quarter when Newtown junior Trey Trudell had an open net and looked like he was going to score. The Wrecker captain had other ideas and prevented him from getting a shot off.
`I knew it was a critical part of the game and I ran over to make sure he didn't get a shot off," Yeager said.
Ross (four goals, one assist, six ground balls) scored three second-half goals and closed out the Nighthawks.
"I owe it to my teammates because they got me good looks to the cage," Ross said. "It was the most impressive game we played all year and it showed on the scoreboard."
Lewis said, "This is the best game we played all year."