It’s been a hugely important week of lacrosse in many areas of the country, as many programs make their way to locking down playoff seeding while playoffs go down in Florida. Friday didn’t provide a ton of surprises, but there were plenty of intriguing results that provided clarity in the Mid-Atlantic.
A plethora of marquee games will take place on Saturday afternoon, however, so have a look at the weekend calendar/scoreboard as well as a lengthy preview of No. 4 Darien’s showdown with No. 5 New Canaan up in Connecticut. ICYMI, catch up on the updated Sideline Swap / RR Private School Top 25 and StringKing / RR Top 25 national rankings.
No. 2 Bullis (Md.) 7, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes (Va.) 5
The Bulldogs survived their biggest remaining test in the regular season, overcoming a slow start to knock off feisty league rival SSSA, 7-5. Ranked as the No. 1 private school team throughout the last few weeks, they’ve won 14 straight games with a 16-2 record overall, needing only a win over St. Albans next Friday to capture Bullis’ first outright IAC regular season crown. UNC-bound attackman Alex Trippi pitched in a hat trick to lead the offense.
Mark Giannotto from the Washington Post attended the game on Friday night (which was also live streamed) and recapped the Bulldogs’ comeback victory.
No. 20 Haverford (Pa.) 16, No. 21 Malvern Prep (Pa.) 12
Though they haven’t been able to maintain their top five preseason ranking, John Nostrant’s Fords are putting themselves in a strong position heading into the season, looking poised to take the Inter-Ac regular season title. On Friday afternoon at home, they completed a sweep of archrival Malvern Prep, dominating all facets of the game to take a 16-12 win.
Penn-bound senior Keyveat Postell and top-ranked Dox Aitken (UVA) combined for nine goals, while longstick Jack Marshall was outstanding at the face-off X. Matthew DeGeorge has an outstanding piece summarizing the game at this link.
No. 7 Boys’ Latin (Md.) 14, Loyola Blakefield (Md.) 8
The Lakers put together one of their most impressive outings of the season, once again playing a stingy zone defense combined with unselfish offense to pick up an important MIAA win on the road. Offensive stalwarts Matt Brandau, Luke Shilling (Hopkins) and Logan Wisnauskas (Syracuse) posted nine goals between the three attackmen.
The win sets up a much anticipated matchup with No. 3 McDonogh on Tuesday afternoon, pitting the league’s top two teams against each other.
Landon (Md.) 10, Georgetown Prep (Md.) 6
When it comes to private school rivalries, there may not be one with bigger fanfare than Prep-Landon. Heading up the road, the Bears used five goals from No. 6 sophomore Joey Epstein (Hopkins) to knock off the Little Hoyas.
After the win, it looks like Landon will take the No. 2 seed in the IAC tournament, receiving a bye. Check out Washington Post for extensive interviews and highlights.
More notable Friday results
Poway (Calif.) 10, Cathedral Catholic (Calif.) 9
Torrey Pines (Calif.) 15, Foothill-Santa Ana (Calif.) 8
St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.) 11, Benjamin (Fla.) 10 in 3OT
Ponte Vedra (Fla.) 16, Lake Highland Prep (Fla.) 11
No. 3 McDonogh (Md.) 15, St. Mary’s (Md.) 5
No. 9 Calvert Hall (Md.) 17, Severn (Md.) 6
DeMatha (Md.) 7, Westminster (Md.) 6 in OT
MICDS (Mo.) 5, New Trier (Ill.) 1
Upper Arlington (Oh.) 5, Western Reserve (Oh.) 4 in OT
Episcopal Academy (Pa.) 8, Penn Charter (Pa.) 7
La Salle (Pa.) 13, St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.) 9
Saturday’s standout games
Orchard Park (N.Y.) at No. 6 Victor (N.Y.)
No. 12 Delbarton (N.J.) at Mountain Lakes (N.J.)
No. 15 Ward Melville (N.Y.) at Smithtown West (N.Y.)
No. 17 Bridgewater-Raritan (N.J.) at Bronxville (N.Y.)
No. 18 Brunswick (Conn.) at Hun (N.J.)
No. 19 Manhasset (N.Y.) at Garden City (N.Y.)
Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.) at No. 22 Summit (N.J.)
Yorktown (N.Y.) at No. 24 St. Anthony’s (N.Y.)
Torrey Pines (Calif.) at Bishop’s School (Calif.)
St. Paul’s (Md.) at Gilman (Md.)
Connecticut Takes Center Stage As Darien Hosts New Canaan
The head coaches at No. 4 Darien and No. 5 New Canaan were quick to emphasize that despite the top five rankings and national exposure, this year’s matchup between the Rams and Blue Wave isn’t any more special than previous years.
“Every year it’s like this,” says Rams head coach Chip Buzzeo. “People are definitely paying more attention to it in terms of national hype but locally, it’s always been this huge in every single sport.”
A showdown between two incredibly similar Fairfield County communities, it’s a rivalry that means a lot across all sports.
“Our guys are pretty used to big game exposure and I think we have a lot of kids that have been around pivotal NC-Darien football and hockey games,” added Darien head coach Jeff Bramier, now in his 33rd season with the Blue Wave. “At the end of the day though, this is still a regular season game.”
The game will be live on the HAN network via YouTube at 1PM on Saturday. The two towns have also come together to raise money for former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason’s cystic fibrosis foundation. T-shirts and other apparel will be sold while donations will be collected at the game.
BREAKING DOWN THE BLUE WAVE
This is a Darien team that is incredibly explosive, running and gunning to average 17.25 goals through eight contests this year. According to Bramier, Amherst-bound senior captain Colin Minicus is “the straw that stirs the drink” on offense, leading the Blue Wave in points and assists. A true X attackman, Minicus is dangerous in that he’s equally capable of dodging to score and dodging to feed, using excellent vision and change of direction to beat opponents.
A junior, Loyola commit Kevin Lindley (RR’s No. 79) has often been the recipient of those feeds, registering a pair of seven-goal games so far. He moves well without the ball and has a superb time-and-room shot when given the opportunity. Senior Jack Kniffin, who will play at Brown next year, is an electric scorer as well. Each player on the starting unit already has over 33 points on the season.
At the midfield, Darien runs two midfield lines evenly for the most part. Hudson Hamill (Washington & Lee) is a catalyst who has 19 assists so far, teaming up with Penn-bound pair Jack Book and Finlay Collins on the first line. Christian Trifone, an All-State cornerback who flourished at attack last year, is now holding down the SSDM position and is a terrific athlete who will stick a touted New Canaan midfielder.
On the defensive side of the ball, there’s no doubt that five-star Mark Evanchick is one of the nation’s best. He’s an imposing cover man who spent the fall breaking Dwight Freeney’s career sack record with 62.5 all-time and is just as good on the lacrosse field. In all likelihood, Evanchick will bump up to the midfield and guard either Smith or O’Connell, while underrated senior LSM Rock Stewart (Williams) will take on the other to help the Blue Wave double pole New Canaan’s midfielder whenever they’re playing man-to-man defense.
“Rock Stewart is the cerebral glue guy for us, a senior who has been shutting down top midfielders,” says Brameier. “He’s sometimes overshadowed by Mark, but Rock really understands the packages, plays great on the wings and does the little things well to keep the ball alive and push it. He is pretty important to Saturday’s outcome.”
Stewart will indeed be crucial on the wings, looking to make life easier for sophomore Tanner Strub at the face-off X. In cage, junior Vermont commit Ryan Cornell is a returning US All-American who is playing with even more confidence than last year. After the Blue Wave allowed 16 goals in a shootout against Niskayuna (Darien tallied 20 that day, however), Cornell has been playing great in the five games since.
BREAKING DOWN THE RAMS
Rolling into Saturday with a 9-0 record, New Canaan has two high quality non-conference wins to give them a No. 5 ranking nationally. Two weeks ago, the Rams played their best game of the season with a 13-8 statement win over Brunswick School.
Possession time will certainly be a huge factor, as the Rams play a more methodical brand of offense to take their time and wear down opposing defenses. Luckily for them, uncommitted sophomore Nick Crovatto has been lights out, winning over 60 percent against ‘Wick before going 9-for-12 against Greenwich’s Bailey Savio, a highly skilled Loyola verbal.
“We feel that we have an advantage there because this is a kid who is getting better every game,” said Chip Buzzeo, a 1996 New Canaan alum in his fourth year as head coach. “He was pretty non-existent in the win at Loyola Blakefield (Md.) but is really coming on. When he doesn’t win [the clamp], he gets the groundball and we’re also able to neutralize with our poles and middies on the wings.
Arguably one of the most athletic teams in the entire country, the Rams have a daunting midfield foursome of Ryan O’Connell (UNC), Kyle Smith (Denver) and uncommitted standouts Peter Swindell and Jack Hoelzer. So far, they’ve helped the New Canaan offense average over 10 goals per game. Several teams have unsuccessfully played zone against the Rams, hoping to slow down the midfield, so Darien’s expected to mix up what they throw at New Canaan.
Due to the fact that so much attention is turned towards the midfield, it opens things up for the tandem of No. 77 junior Jackson Appelt (UVA) and senior Syracuse commit Clayton Burt, who put up four goals against Brunswick.
No team has scored more than eight goals against the New Canaan defense so far this season. Senior defenseman David Strupp (Harvard) and left-handed junior goalie Drew Morris (Maryland) are playing as well as anybody in the country, while James Crovatto and Andrew Bauersfeld (Vermont) round out the unit. With so much production coming from Darien’s attack, a huge key will be the Ram D being able to keep the Blue Wave attack in check.
“Darien has all of these set plays and they like to move quickly so we’ll see if we can stop those and force them to be creative,” says Buzzeo. “We have all of the respect in the world for them – it’s the best Darien team we’ve ever faced because of their depth and talent at every position.”