Wilton tops Staples in OT, advances to FCIAC semis
The plan, on the hottest day yet this boys lacrosse season, was to wear down Staples’ strong defense, said Wilton’s unrelated Sullivans: hold the ball, work it around, grind them down.
It mostly worked Saturday at Fujitani Field, at least until the Wreckers came all the way back to force overtime. But Liam Sullivan set up Reilly Sullivan at 1:16 into the extra period to give Wilton a 4-3 win in the FCIAC quarterfinals.
“We were just moving the ball around, trying to tire them out. It’s hot out here,” Liam Sullivan said. “That was the whole plan.”
It was over 70 degrees and humid, and the sun was actually out after long stretches the past few chilly weeks where it was often just a rumor.
The Warriors held the ball most of the first quarter and almost all of the second, outshooting Staples, 25-5, at halftime. Still, the lead was just 3-0, as both goalies — Wilton's Andrew Calabrese and Staples’ Tim Luciano — made big saves.
“Maybe it’s a bold statement, but I felt all season long we were one of the top defenses in the state, maybe even the best. My goalie, Timmy Luciano, is a special player,” Staples coach Will Koshansky said.
“I’d put him up against any goalie in the state… Our poles are really, really tough, and they’ve got a good system going. Our plan today was to shut off the short sticks and make it really difficult for Wilton’s offense to generate against our poles.”
The Wreckers used six long-stick players to fill the four spots. The defense gave the offense time to get going. A goal late in the third quarter as a man-up situation expired got Staples on the board, another early in the fourth got them closer, and a nifty spin move by Ryan Thompson tied it with 6:20 left.
But it’ll be the fourth-seeded Warriors (9-8), above .500 for the first time since the season opener, facing top-seeded Darien (13-4) in the semifinals on Tuesday night at 7 at Brien McMahon in Norwalk.
“It was tough. The momentum changed. Our kids, to their credit, they stayed composed, and they got it done,” Wilton coach Steve Pearsall said.
Wilton, ranked ninth in the latest GameTimeCT poll, won the face-off to start overtime. A little over a minute in, Liam Sullivan came off the right sideline, drawing both his man and Reilly Sullivan’s. He fed the ball back to the right.
“Liam took his man, and he just gave it back to me, and everything just fell in place,” said Reilly Sullivan, who had scored on April 27 to beat Staples in double overtime in the teams' regular-season meeting.
“It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s not over yet, though,” Liam Sullivan said. “That’s just one of the small games of the way to that state championship. We’re not done.”
Notes: Forget the six saves; the couple of big bodychecks thrown by All-American Wilton goalie Andrew Calabrese were a sight, too.
Wilton was about as close to healthy as it has been all year, with attackman Dean DiNanno back from injury. The Warriors fought injuries all year, dropping to 1-7 at midseason. They’ve come all the way back.
Staples, ranked sixth in the GameTimeCT poll, got its three goals from two freshmen.
“Charlie Howard, we call him ‘Snake,’ because he’s a killer,” said Koshansky, whose team is missing its leading scorer, the injured Pat Ciquera. “He scored two big goals for us in the second half that really got us going. Ryan Thompson goes in there and scores a big goal for us ... to tie it up late in an FCIAC playoff game is pretty great as a freshman ...”