Heading into its Senior Night matchup on Thursday, all but one of the Greenwich boys lacrosse team’s games this spring were against FCIAC opponents, yet it faced an unfamiliar, non-conference foe in the form of Cheshire in its regular season finale.
And that was a challenge coach Bobby Lutz and the Cardinals welcomed.
“They are a really good team,” Lutz said of Cheshire, following Thursday’s game. “It’s hard for these kids to see the other teams in the state and how good they are. They get a little fixated on the FCIAC and how good the FCIAC teams are and then forget there are a lot of quality teams north of us. So mentally, they have to focus on how other teams could be real competition.”
Tested from the outset, Greenwich overcame an early two-goal deficit and celebrated its Senior Night in style, recording a well-earned 10-9 victory over Cheshire at Cardinal Stadium. With the tight triumph, Greenwich finished its regular season with a record of 11-4. The Cardinals will wait and see what seed they will receive in the FCIAC Tournament, which begins on Monday.
“We’re rolling right now, we’re playing the best we’ve played all season, so we’re really excited to get a chance to win an FCIAC and state championship coming up,” said Greenwich senior midfielder Jack Cook, one of the Cards’ five captains.
Cook was one of the key players of the game for the Cardinals. He had the ball in his possession with Greenwich clinging to a 10-9 lead with 35 seconds left to play. The senior captain successfully ran out the clock, taking a few bumps along the way.
“We had to keep it in for the last minute and I just had to run around a few kids,” Cook said. “There was a pretty big collision at the end, but that’s what we like to see.”
Lutz and the Cardinals are always confident when Cook has the ball in any situation.
“He plays offense, he plays defense, he picks up every ground ball,” Lutz said of Cook. “Jack Cook always does the right thing. It’s good to have a captain like that.”
Junior attack Bryce Metalios, Greenwich’s leading scorer, continued to produce at an impressive pace. Metalios scored a game-high five goals to pace the Cardinals, who ended the regular season with three straight wins. Senior attackman John Cataldo tallied twice, while senior midfielder Will Montesi, Cook and sophomore attack Brian Collins added one goal apiece for the victors.
“Having a good Senior Night and coming out with the win means a lot,” said Montesi, a captain. “Cheshire played really well, they have a lot of really good athletes and a lot of really good players. But we just keep on riding this wave. We lost to Wilton recently and that was a good game too, we just got some unlucky breaks, but we’re just getting everyone involved and riding the wave.”
Junior Charlie Zola was clutch in goal, registering eight saves for the Cards, who were led defensively by senior captains Chris Cataldo and Jimmy O’Malley.
“It was a battle from start to finish,” Lutz said. “Charlie Zola is playing really good in goal and the defense has been great.”
Metalios’ goal with just over four minutes remaining in the third quarter gave Greenwich a 7-4 advantage, but Cheshire finished the quarter strong, tallying three consecutive goals to even the score at 7-7.
P.J. Cass converted a shot at the 3:35 mark, cutting Greenwich’s advantage to 7-5. Trailing 7-6, the Rams tied the score when midfielder Jack Davis scored off a pass from midfielder Jack Lovelace with just three seconds to go in the third quarter.
The Cardinals took the lead for good on Metalios’ goal from close in off a feed from junior James Pilc with 42 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Rams nearly knotted the score again, but Zola made a nifty save at the 7:36 mark, keeping Greenwich in front by a goal.
Gathering a ground ball, junior Wesley Zolin passed the ball up the field to Collins, who snapped a shot on the run past Cheshire senior goalie Andrew Vernon, making it 9-7 with 4:02 left to play. Senior captain/attack John Cataldo scored, after receiving a pass from junior Quinn Warwick, extending Greenwich’s edge to 10-7 at the 3:30 mark of the fourth quarter.
Cheshire responded though, getting goals from attack Brian Bouwman and attackman Evan Stern, with Stern’s goal coming with 1:11 to go in the final quarter. However, the Cardinals calmly were able to run out the clock. The Rams scored the game’s first two goals, prompting a response from the Cards.
“They played hard from the get-go, they got off to an early 2-0 lead,” Cook said. “We came out slow, but after that we put a bunch in at the end of the first quarter and kind of carried that momentum throughout. They came back a little bit in the fourth quarter, which we didn’t like. But we ended it the right way.”
Said O’Malley, a senior captain: “This is a game that represents us as a team. We went down 2-0, with two-man down goals the first couple of minutes and then we climbed back from there and that was a big moment for us as a team. That’s the type of team we are. Facing a new opponent like Cheshire with some great talent will be good for us come states.”
Stern had two goals, as did Bouwman for Cheshire, which finished with a regular season mark of 13-3. Warwick won seven faceoffs for Greenwich, which saw Zolin excel at setting up his teammates. Zolin posted four assists.
“Their FOGO was amazing, Lutz said. “That goalie and FOGO were the best of any I’ve seen in the state. We knew it was going to be a battle for possessions and we knew that every time we had the ball, we were going to try to score and every time they had the ball, we had to do everything we can to stop them.”
Indeed, the Cardinals got exactly what they were hoping for on Senior Night.
“We got some seniors in at the start, which is always good,” said John Cataldo, a senior captain. “This is all my group of friends and it’s nice to play with them on Senior Night and it’s nice to get the win for all of them. We’re heading in the right direction to make a good postseason run.”
Added Chris Cataldo: “This was a big win for us. It was a gritty win and it’s huge for us going into playoffs. We’ve had some ups and downs, but come playoff time, we’ll be ready. It’s been a steady climb for us. After Ridgefield, we’ve played our best lacrosse and other than that loss to Wilton, come playoff time, we’ll be ready.”