By John Goralski
Three different players combined for four goals in the first quarter. Four players had contributed to the scoreboard by the time that Southington rallied to a 6-0 lead in the second quarter. On Sunday, June 1, the Blue Knight lacrosse team exploded into the Class L tournament with a 9-4 win over Conard.
Southington abandoned their zone defense. The Knights settled into a deliberate, possession offense, and they never looked back.
“We decided to be aggressive defensively and go after them,” said Southington coach Ron Chase. “Offensively, we decided to be patient. We knew it was going to be hot out here, so we wanted to take our time and make the right shot.”
Jared DeFeo set the pace with three goals and one assist. Kevin Cop added three scores, and Jarod Florian scored twice. Chris Gamber added a goal with an assist, and Alex Jamele earned an assist as Southington’s offense melded into a balanced attack.
“We have a lot of guys stepping up for us,” said Chase. “We have guys moving off the ball and making big plays for us. We have a lot of sophomores out there making plays, but some of our older guys are really becoming leaders.”
Defensively, the Knights put a stranglehold on Conard’s attack. Southington held the Chieftains scoreless in the first quarter and allowed just one goal in the second half as Brian Mahon secured 14 saves to get the win. Except for a three-goal flurry in just over a minute of the third quarter, the Knights dictated the tempo of the contest.
“We came out fired up,” said Chase, but he admitted that the short lapse is an area of concern. Southington will face New Milford in the second round, and that could be the deciding factor as the Knights look to advance to the program’s first quarterfinals.
“For some reason, we have three or four minutes of lapses in our play, and they score three or four goals in a row. It’s happened for three games in a row now,” said the coach. “We do a better job on offense when we move the ball around a couple of times and then go at it. During those four minutes, we got out of that, and they were able to keep the ball on our end.”
It was a lapse that cost the Knights a victory just a few days before in the conference tournament. For the second time in a row, Southington ran out to an early lead against Glastonbury but saw it slip away with a short defensive lapse.
On May 20, Glastonbury used a four-goal surge in the second half to score a 10-8 victory in the regular season. On Wednesday, May 28, the Knights surrendered five goals over an eight minute stretch but nearly erased the deficit with a second half comeback.
In the final minute of the rematch, Southington had three opportunities to tie the score. Cop (2 assists), DeFeo (1 assist), and Jamele scored two goals apiece, and Florian added a goal with two assists to close the deficit to 9-8. With 5.4 seconds remaining, Cop found Florian after a stoppage of play, and Florian just missed his hurried shot as time expired.
“I give my guys a lot of credit,” said Chase. “Glastonbury went on that four-goal run, and our guys could have easily cashed it in. They didn’t allow that to happen, and that shows a lot about the heart of this team. I couldn’t be more proud of them. Obviously, we would have wanted the win since we’ve never gotten into the CCC finals before in the history of the program, but we took it right down to the wire. We got off the last shot, and a six inch difference would have put us into overtime.”
With two competitive games against Glastonbury, and a convincing win over Conard, the Knights are peaking at the right time. With a win over No. 4 New Milford (13-3), the program could reach a new milestone.
“New Milford is as good as it gets,” said Chase. “They have an extremely good offense, so we can’t have these lapses. Our offense is really going to have to be patient and work the ball around to give our defense a chance to catch their breath.”
Southington (11-7) is in uncharted waters.
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By John Goralski