Fairfield Prep states case against Staples
The Fairfield Prep boys lacrosse team knows how to make its presence felt during the regular season. This spring, the Jesuits won 11 of their first 12 games, dropped just one decision against in-state competition and finished with a solid 14-3 record.
However, it isn’t until the calendar flips to June that Fairfield Prep really starts to rev up its engine. When the state tournament begins, that's when the Jesuits really come to life.
“At Fairfield Prep, we play our best lacrosse in June,” veteran head coach Chris Smalkais said. “In June, we like to be playing AP lacrosse.”
The Jesuits have done that for the past six seasons, reaching every Class L state championship game since the CIAC switched to a three-division format. Now Fairfield Prep is doing it again, cruising into the semifinals with a 13-4 victory over No. 13 Staples Saturday afternoon in the Class L quarterfinals in front of a hefty crowd at Alumi Stadium in Fairfield.
Kevin Brown scored five goals, Matt Brophy, who recently committed to play at Princeton, poured in four goals and Tim Edmonds dished out four assists for the fifth-seeded Jesuits, who raced out to leads of 5-1 at the end of the first quarter and 8-3 at halftime and never looked back.
Fairfield Prep’s defense, led by senior Connor Barr and a soild 13-save performace by senior goalie Mike Seelye, did the rest, holding the Wreckers (10-9) to just one goal in the second half and no shots in the final quarter.
Fairfield Prep, which suffered defeat in the last two state championship games after winning four straight, will face top-seeded Simsbury (17-1) in the Class L semifinals Wednesday at a site and time yet to be determined.
Simsbury, whose only loss came against Brien McMahon midway through the regular season, posted an 11-3 victory over Xavier in the quarterfinals.
The convincing victory over its second straight FCIAC opponent — Fairfield Prep defeated a young Greenwich outfit 15-5 in the opening round — elucidates how focused the Jesuits get come state tournament time.
“I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Seelye said. “It’s just that feeling you get where every game could be your last. Every time I get to play another game I just get very focused.”
Staples simply didn’t have the firepower or enough defensive intensity to knock off Fairfield Prep on the road but still put the finishing touches on another successful season, it’s fourth straight winning campaign under head coach Paul McNulty.
“We played hard against a very good opponent and just came up short,” McNulty said. “But we still did some good things this year. I told the guys it was their turn to keep the program going strong and I they did that.”
Staples controlled the ball early in the game but failed to put one past Seelye after a long possession.
Once Fairfield Prep got things going with their lethal ability to score in transition, it was all but over. The Jesuits scored the first four goals on the game, one each by Brown and Brophy and two straight by Sean Henry to take a 4-0 lead.
Staples finally got on the board with 25 seconds left on a goal by Colin Bannon, his first of two on the day, but Brown broke the back of the Wreckers with a counter-punch goal with 5.4 seconds left before the intermission.
Staples made a strong comeback attempt after Brown’s second goal made it 6-1 early in the second quarter. The Wreckers beat Seelye twice over a span of 1:19 on goals by Joey Zelkowitz (two goals) and a great right-handed rip by Colin Bannon (two goals) after he was knocked to the ground, pulling the Wreckers to within 6-3 with 5:24 left before halftime.
Fairfield Prep regained the momentum with two unanswered goals to end the first half then leaned on its defense over the final two quarters, out-scoring the Wreckers 5-1 in the second half.
“The signature at Fairfield Prep is to play good team defense,” Smalkais said.
The Wreckers never did figure out a way to beat Seelye.
“Mike Seelye is one of the top goalies in the state,” Smalkais said. “No question.”
The only question now is will Prep make it seven straight championship game appearances. The answer will come against Simsbury this week.