East Catholic Lacrosse Defeats Ellington

MANCHESTER-The East Catholic boys lacrosse team moved one step closer to their goal of earning a state title by routing Ellington 15-3 Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Class S Tournament. The third-seeded Eagles (15-3) dominated the 11th-seeded Knights throughout on both offense and defense by virtue of athleticism and efficiency.

East Catholic earned a matchup with surprise semifinalist St. Joseph (11-8) of Trumbull on Wednesday, seeded eighteenth. The programs also faced one another in last year’s semifinals, with 10th-seeded St. Joseph defeating the No. 6 Eagles 13-6 and going on to beat Weston in the finals. Ellington ends the 2016 season with a record of 11-7.

While freshman Jake Tellers and senior Trevor Wilcox led the way on offense for East Catholic, scoring four and three goals, the team got outstanding contributions from a large number of players, with nine ultimately scoring. Junior Zach Dougherty scored twice for Ellington.

“We just played good man-to-man defense, and our guys have been playing at that level all-year long,” East Catholic head coach Glenn Boggini said. “Our main kids don’t get the attention and credit they deserve. They limited a good team to three goals.”

“We didn’t play our best today, which we would have needed to do to beat them, and unfortunately we didn’t play anywhere near it,” Ellington head coach Dave Giordano said.

East Catholic took control of the game almost immediately when Wilcox scored less than a minute in.  Teller then scored his first goal with 5:59 remaining in the first, and senior Connor Goldberg followed up quickly with a third. While Dougherty managed to get Ellington on the board in the final seconds of the quarter, the Knights rarely possessed the ball during it and struggled to generate open shots.

In the second, East Catholic continued to play very efficiently on both ends of the field. Tellers quickly helped it regain momentum by scoring 58 seconds into the quarter, beating senior goalie Jason Miller low and to the left. Sophomore Will Pineo then made the score 5-1 4:10 in when he maneuvered through a crowd and fired a shot across his body past Miller. Tellers ended his outstanding first half by scoring the Eagles sixth goal with 5:38 remaining to give the team the 6-1 advantage it took into halftime.  East Catholic’s offensive players moved the ball and communicated well against the Ellington defense and demonstrated impressive strength and agility, allowing them to set up good shots. East Catholic was helped by its abilities to win face-offs and ground balls.

“We’ve been working hard in practice to get our offensive sets down pat, and everything seemed to be clicking today,” Wilcox said. “Our passes were clicking and we were finishing our shots. Everything on offense seemed to flow nicely.”

The Knights again possessed the ball rarely in the second and lacked flow when they did. The Eagles defenders did an excellent job of pressuring Ellington’s top scorers and shutting down offensive sets by limiting their ability to make good passes and take ideal shots. In addition, the Knights shot themselves in the foot multiple times by committing sloppy passes and turnovers and failing to convert on open shots. Giordano elaborated on his team’s offensive struggles.

“We were stagnant and stood around too much, and you can’t do that against East Catholic because they will exploit it. We also made some poor passes and turnovers. Three points isn’t going to do it, and you can only stay with their offense so long,” he said.

East Catholic sealed the win in the third by scoring four goals in the span of roughly three minutes. The run began when senior Chris Amata scored 2:46 seconds in and then fellow senior Owen Boggini 15 seconds later. The pair scored right in front of the goal, beating Miller low. At the 5:24 mark senior Evan Manuel scored off a series of nice passes to make the score 9-1, and Wilcox followed him 31 seconds later by beating Miller high. The spurt was set up by the Eagles ramping up their aggressiveness and speed on offense, as well as continuing to win face-offs and ground balls.

“I think our offensive success started with our face-off guy Lucas Niezelski (senior) getting us the ball so much. From there, we just consistently executed and played well,” Coach Boggini said. “It was beautiful to see so many different guys scoring and contributing on offense.”

Dougherty scored for Ellington in the final minute of the quarter and junior Colby Unterstein with seven minutes remaining to make it 11-3, with the two goals occurring during their team’s best stretch of offensive play of the game. The tiring Knights could not sustain their momentum however, as East Catholic continued to be aggressive and ended the game on an offensive role. Teller, Amata, Manuel and junior Connor Hill scored in the final minutes.

“East Catholic’s players move so well off the ball and are good at making cuts. They’re great at passing stick on stick and finding guys on the backside no matter what,” Giordano said.

“Our team is so deep and we have a ton of guys who can come off the bench and score,” Wilcox said. “Everyone is moving the ball well so they get a chance at finishing, and we’ve been doing that.”

After the game, Boggini and his players all appeared eager to get another chance to face St. Joseph and avenge last year’s loss. The Eagles and Cadets were tied at halftime in last year’s game before the Cadets offense exploded in the second half. Boggini and Wilcox are ready for the challenge.

We’re thrilled to be playing such a good team. I think this year’s group is better defensively and more polished than last year’s,” Boggini said. “We just have to continue to focus on playing hard and executing well on Wednesday.”

“Last year’s loss to St. Joseph’s has been in the back of our heads and motivating us all season,” Wilcox said. “For the team and especially the seniors, facing them again and winning would feel so good. It would make all the hard work worth it.”

 

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