BRISTOL â€“ â€śOne more on Maltby Street,â€ť St. Paul boys lacrosse coach Chris Kennedy said after celebrating with his team.
The St. Paul boys lacrosse team is on its way to the semifinals of the state tournament for the first time school history after beating 12th-seeded Somers 13-11 in the Class S quarterfinals. The fourth-seeded Falcons move on to face the winner of No. 8 Haddam-Killingworth and No. 17. St. Joseph in Bristol on Wednesday.
St. Paul emerged the back and forth contest behind seven points from senior Christian Decker (three goals, four assists), who helped the Falcons build a four-goal lead after halftime. The Spartans game back to tie the game 11-11 in the final two minutes, until Decker found freshman Tyson Raymond in front of the goal to put St. Paul back in front.
Senior Ryan Bogdanski iced the game for the Falcons, scoring with 13 seconds remaining to give the Falcons a two-goal lead.
â€śItâ€™s a little validation for my kids, for the four years of work they put in,â€ť Kennedy said. â€śWe have a group of seniors that were heavy contributors early in their careers and they never rested on their laurels. They got better every day for four years and thatâ€™s why weâ€™re here.â€ť
Decker had four of his teamâ€™s five assists and was one of three players, along with Raymond and senior Brycen Kennedy, to finish with a hat trick. Senior goaltender Connor Matthews was dialed in between the pipes, finishing with 23 saves to anchor a strong defensive performance for the Falcons.
Junior Cooper Barrett and sophomore Kalvin Long each posted hat tricks for Somers and were instrumental in their teamâ€™s comeback in the fourth quarter, but could not hang on after leveling the score.
â€śWeâ€™re so juiced about this as a team,â€ť Decker said. â€śWeâ€™re so amped weâ€™re going to the next round, this is huge for our program. I know the seniors are really tight this year, so it means a lot for us and coach.â€ť
The teams spent the first half exchanging goals as neither team ever led by more than one. Decker and Kennedy each netted one in the first as the game was locked in a 3-3 tie after 12 minutes. Freshman Dominic Oakes took the lead back for St. Paul to start the second quarter with a sidearm bounce-shot that found the top of the goal.
Both teams repeatedly answered their opponents goals until the Falcons entered halftime with a 6-5 lead. Matthews started displaying his skill from the goalie crease early, making 11 saves in the first half and weathering three and a half minutes of man-down play as the Falcons accrued five fouls in the second quarter..
â€śThe defense was doing a great job of keeping them in front and not letting them get too far inside,â€ť Matthews said. â€śI was seeing the ball well, getting a good step there, letting it hit me, doing the best I could.â€ť
St. Paul dominated the third quarter and built the first multi-goal lead of the day, outscoring the Spartans 5-2 in the period. After Brian McGowan tied the game for Somers, the Falcons capitalized on a turnover to get Bogdanski his first goal of the game, which ignited a string of five straight goals for St. Paul.
â€śAt halftime, all we talked about was winning the third quarter,â€ť Chris Kennedy said. â€śI think they had the mindset to come out and attack for that moment and it resulted in positive effects for us.â€ť
Decker found Raymond in between a swarm of defenders before completing his hat trick with a transition score. Brycen Kennedy finished the run with a pair of scores that displayed his variety of footwork and stick skills, doing it on his own to put the Falcons up 11-7 after three quarters.
â€śItâ€™s hard for anybody to have enough good defenders to cover everybody on our team and those two (Decker and Brycen Kennedy),â€ť Chris Kennedy said. â€śIf youâ€™re going to concentrate on those two, theyâ€™re unselfish enough that theyâ€™ll let the other kids make you pay. But if youâ€™re going to play us even, those two are very, very hard to stop.â€ť
Barrett and Long combined for three goals to start the four quarter, which brought Somers within one before senior captain Jack Brunt fired one past Matthews to finish the comeback with two minutes left on the clock, but St. Paul arose to add two more and punch a ticket to the Class S semifinals.
â€śMy kids have heart and guts in spades,â€ť Chris Kennedy said. â€śIn between the boxes, you see the difference in the third and fourth quarter the way my kids are able to win ground balls. Thatâ€™s just heart and guts and desire.â€ť
â€śDuring the year we talked about building a resume for June, and then once we got June we talked about playing St. Paul lacrosse,â€ť Kennedy said. â€śIâ€™m proud of the kids, they held true to that. We didnâ€™t play Somersâ€™ game, we played St. Paul lacrosse.â€ť
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org.