From his days playing youth lacrosse all the way up until now, Wilton senior Andrew Calabrese has built his All-America reputation as a fearless goaltender.
The Naval Academy recruit is famous (infamous?) for his aggressive play in Fairfield County circles, for sure. And in Wednesday’s Class L lacrosse tournament’s first round, he made sure Glastonbury got the message, too.
With the third-seeded Tomahawks on a breakaway and bearing down for the tying goal late in the third quarter, Calabrese stepped out of the cage and laid a bone-crushing check on Glastonbury attackman Alek Turi that knocked the ball loose and preserved Wilton’s one-goal lead.
“How many times a season do you see a goalie make a hit like that?” teammate and fellow All-America defender Ryan Schriber asked, incredulously. Then he paused. “…How many times do you see anybody make a hit like that? It just doesn’t happen.”
11-7 Wilton final. And you’ll be hearing all about goalie Andrew Calabrese’s crushing check on a potential game-tying fast break by Glastonbury to end the 3rd.
The Warriors are on to the quarterfinals… et tu New Canaan? #ctlax pic.twitter.com/NQSus8R4yt
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) May 29, 2019
Galvanized by their goalie’s smackdown, Wilton pulled away for an eventual 11-8 victory to set up an anticipated rematch with New Canaan in the Class L quarterfinals on Saturday at Dunning Field.
For Calabrese, he just wanted to get in on the action.
“It was becoming a fast game of lacrosse. Everyone was swinging,” Calabrese said. “And I saw my opportunity to when they didn’t have their heads up. So I just went for it.”
It was the second tournament win in five days for the Warriors since an 8-7 loss to New Canaan in the FCIAC championship game last Friday.
Wilton, seeded 19th in Class L thanks to a 1-7 start, had no time to mourn that loss. It got back on a bus 12 hours later to play Hall in a qualifying game at West Hartford.
The 10-3 victory on Saturday meant a trip back to Hartford County, this time to face third-seed Glastonbury, which had reached two-consecutive Class L semifinals and featured a star-studded attack, led by Justin Hazard (Wesleyan) and Kevin Kierney (Hofstra).
“It’s was two one-and-a-half-hour bus rides because we started 1-7,” said Schriber, who scored a goal for Wilton against Glastonbury. “It’s not something you want for states, going on the road, coming out tired every game. But we’ve made the most of it. We all knew of what we were capable of.”
Wilton, which trailed by two goals in the second quarter and 6-5 at halftime, had just recaptured its first lead since early in the first quarter. Liam Sullivan (five goals) and Reilly Sullivan (three) put Wilton up 7-6 midway through the third.
After winning the face-off, Wilton was threatening for more. But a turnover gave Glastonbury the ball back with just under a minute left in the quarter.
Glastonbury goaltender Tom O’Connor found Hazard with a long bounce pass to midfield. Hazard then turned and fired to a streaking Chris Consoli, who found Turi in front of the cage.
Calabrese, not content to wait for the shot, came out and put Turi on his back.
“He’s a beast,” Schriber said. “He’s been doing that since third grade. It’s definitely a morale booster. It gives everyone a little pump on the sideline, gets all the subs going, it gets the players going… it’s unreal when he does that.
As for the affect on Glastonbury, coach Scott Hinchey thought his team might have started hearing footsteps.
“I was a goalie myself. I see how he plays. He’s tough out there,” said Hinchey, whose sixth-ranked team’s season ended with a 14-4 record. “I think after that hit it made it tough for us catching inside, thinking a guy’s coming to hit us. It gets you thinking a little bit in there.
“This one stinks. It hurts.”
Calabrese’s teammates wasted no time putting the game out of reach as the fourth quarter began. Dean DiNanno and then Liam Sullivan scored to make it a three-goal advantage.
“It’s a game of runs and they kind of got the one that mattered,” Hinchey said.
But as even Calabrese admits, his aggressiveness can sometimes backfire. Turi got a little payback when he caught Calabrese out of the net and scored easily to pull the Tomahawks within 9-7 with 9:50 remaining.
“Yeah, you always know that you definitely could end up on the other side of the stick and look like an idiot,” said Calabrese, who also picked up a procedure penalty in the fourth quarter. “But you’ve got to take that risk. It comes with experience.”
Regardless, Schriber, Calabrese and the rest of the vaunted Wilton defense didn’t allow another goal until there was just 1:36 left.
By then, Wilton had enough cushion to assure itself of a date with New Canaan, which has beaten the Warriors by a goal twice this season.
“We have New Canaan again for the third time this year, now,” Schriber said. “You know what they say: Third time’s the charm. We’re looking to make it count this time.”
“We know what to expect,” Calabrese added. “We definitely have more of a chip on our shoulder this time.”