Wilton tops New Canaan in boys lax state quarterfinals

A little more than five weeks ago, the Wilton High boys lacrosse team was reeling with a 1-7 record. Now the Warriors have a date with Fairfield Prep in the state semifinals.

Riding six goals from Dean DiNanno and a 13-save performance from goalie Andrew Calabrese, the Warriors knocked off FCIAC champion New Canaan, 14-11, in the Class L quarterfinals Saturday at Dunning Field.

The turnaround has been remarkable. Since losing seven of its first eight games, Wilton is 11-2, with the latest win avenging its loss to New Canaan in last week’s FCIAC final.

Calabrese said the team never lost faith.

“The whole time, in the locker room underneath the bleachers when we lost in front of our home stands, we went in there and said we have a choice,” Calabrese said. “We can either turn it around right now or just pack it in, and we turned it around. Hats off to the seniors for showing the underclassmen what it means to play in the blue and white.”

Wilton, the 19th seed, will face third-seed Fairfield Prep (15-3) in the semifinals on Wednesday (June 5) at a site and time to be determined. Prep defeated Newtown, 15-5, in another quarterfinal game Saturday.

The Warriors’ 14 goals nearly doubled their total from the previous two meetings with New Canaan, which beat Wilton, 9-8, during the regular season and then 8-7 in the FCIAC final.

In addition to DiNanno’s six tallies, Wilton also got two goals apiece from Zach Rossi and Reilly Sullivan and single goals from Liam Sullivan and Liam McGovern. Even the defensive long poles got into the act, as Ryan Schriber scored in the second quarter and Tyler Previtte scored in the fourth.

“We played together,” DiNanno said. “When we have Tyler and Ryan coming down, it’s always a threat. No one wants them shooting and when they make their passes, it leaves us wide open. We were moving the ball, everyone was moving the whole game and we just put the ball in the net.”

New Canaan had a huge game from Liam Griffiths, who also scored six goals, including one on an over-the-shoulder shot with his back to the net. Quintin O’Connell had a hat trick and two assists, and Drew Guida and Will Rechtermann each had a goal and an assist.

The loss was a dramatic shift in emotions from last weekend when the Rams were celebrating their first FCIAC championship since 2013.

“They put more in the net than we did,” New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo said. “It was a handful of plays, but our guys fought to the end; they never gave up, and I’m proud of them for that. I truly love this group of boys. They’re young men that I’m going to miss, especially this senior class. It’s never fun when you lose your last game, but Wilton played great and they deserved to win today.”

For Wilton, Calabrese came up with several saves at key moments.

“Andrew’s been that way all season,” Wilton coach Steve Pearsall said. “He’s an unbelievable goalie. He’s the top goalie in the state as far as I’m concerned and he’s been a brick wall back there for us. He’s an athletic kid who does so much other than just stopping the ball for us.”

As they had done in the FCIAC finals, the Warriors got off to a hot start. Rossi opened the scoring and then DiNanno added back-to-back goals for a 3-0 lead.

Goals by Rechtermann and Griffiths got New Canaan's engine started and the first quarter ended with Wilton up 4-3.

Griffiths scored the first two goals of the second period with assists from O’Connell and Rechtermann to give New Canaan what turned out to be its only lead of the game at 5-4.

The teams were tied at 6-6 when Schriber came down the field, split a pair of defenders and scored to put the Warriors ahead. DiNanno’s fourth goal came with 58.4 seconds left, as Wilton took an 8-6 lead into halftime.

Wilton extended that advantage to three goals after three periods and kept the heat on when Reilly Sullivan scored the opening goal of the fourth quarter for a 12-8 lead with 10:05 remaining.

The Rams made a final charge with back-to-back goals by Griffiths and O’Connell to close the gap to 12-10 with 7:59 to play.

DiNanno then scored off a scramble in front, after New Canaan goalie Carl Mazabras (seven saves) made a pair of stops. DiNanno scooped the loose ball into the open left side of the net for a back-breaking goal with 6:13 remaining.

“It bounced right in front and everybody was trying to find where it was,” DiNanno said. “I was kind of lurking outside and I went in and just put it on net.”

Griffiths then scored his sixth goal for New Canaan, but Wilton got it back for a 14-11 lead before the defense held off a final push by the Rams. Fittingly, the game ended with the ball in Calabrese’s stick after he scooped up a ground ball in the defensive end.

The senior goalie said the Warriors had the same mentality as they did when they upset Darien, 4-3, in the FCIAC semifinals.

“We just needed to find that mindset we had against Darien,” Calabrese said. “Block out the noise and everyone who didn’t believe in us. It’s the people in the huddle who matter, and we had all we needed.”


WILTON           4 4 3 3 — 14
NEW CANAAN 3 3 2 3 — 11

Wilton: Dean DiNanno 6g, 2a; Zach Rossi 2g, 1a; Reilly Sullivan 2g, 1a; Liam Sullivan 1g, 2a; Liam McGovern 1g; Tyler Previtte 1g; Ryan Schriber 1g; William Hughes 1a; New Canaan: Liam Griffiths 6g; Quintin O’Connell 3g, 2a; Drew Guida 1g, 1a; Will Rechtermann 1g, 1a; Teddy Manges 2a; Ryan Caione 2a; Kyle Russell 1a; Goalies: W – Andrew Calabrese 13 saves; NC – Carl Mazabras 7 saves; Records: Wilton 12-9; New Canaan 15-6.