East Catholic Lacrosse Season Ends With Loss to St. Joseph in Class S Semifinals

BERLIN-After losing to St. Joseph High of Trumbull in last season’s Class S Tournament semifinals, East Catholic boys lacrosse coach Glenn Boggini and his players were determined to return the favor if the teams played again in this year’s tournament. The No. 3 Eagles obtained that opportunity Wednesday night in the S semifinals, but did not play up to their potential, losing 9-2 to the No. 18 Crusaders in front of a pro-East Catholic crowd.

After scoring 15 points against both Lewis Mills and Ellington in the first two rounds, the East Catholic (15-4) offense was completely MIA Wednesday. It executed poorly throughout and was unable to consistently generate good shots against the disciplined St. Joseph defense. When the Eagles did get good looks at the goal, they were frequently shut down by goalie Cillian Donahue, who made nine saves. The Crusaders ended East Catholic’s nine-game win streak.

“Sometimes in these games kids try to do too much, and tonight we had offensive players trying to go against two or three guys and that’s not going to work,” Boggini said. “We just didn’t execute and find open guys when they slid early.”

Senior Connor Goldberg and junior Connor Hill scored for the Eagles. St. Joseph was led by junior Jared Newel, who scored three goals and recorded two assists. Sophomore Ryan Wilson and senior Chris Kablonski each scored twice. East Catholic juniors Aric Graves and Chris O’Connor combined to make seven saves.   

The Eagles struck first, as Goldberg scored 2:14 into the first quarter. It was the last goal they would have for a long time. The Cadets three goals in the quarter all came in transition. Newel scored a minute following Goldberg to tie the game, and junior Kevin Faustich gave the Cadets the lead with 4:07 remaining. Klabonski concluded the scoring at the 1:34 mark when he beat Graves high.

After gaining the momentum in the first, St. Joseph took control in the second due to its strong defense and East Catholic’s offensive inefficiency. The Cadets defenders used their athleticism and aggressiveness to make it difficult for Eagles players to find space for open shots and execute cuts. East Catholic also did a poor job of running its offensive sets and frequently made poor passes and unforced turnovers. When the Eagles took shots, they were usually wild and off line. Finally, East Catholic had two goals disallowed in the quarter due to the first being scored in the crease and the second just after the halftime buzzer sounded.

With East Catholic generating little offensive movement, the Cadets controlled possession for a large portion of the second. They moved the ball well, but the Eagles defense generally met the challenge, pressuring passers and shooters while altering multiple plays. Ultimately, St. Joseph scored twice to take a 5-1 halftime lead. Sophomore Jared Mallozzi scored 1:51 into the second, and Wilson scored with just four seconds remaining on the clock on a fast break.

“At halftime, I just told our players to focus on being patient and keeping things simple. Sometimes however, your team gets a few goals down and everything just snowballs,” Boggini said. “I thought we had a team that could come back in this situation, but it wasn’t our night.”

The Eagles started the second half on the wrong foot. After they were unable to take advantage of possessing the ball for the opening 2:30, shooting wide on a couple of looks, Wilson recovered a ground ball and scored on an uncontested shot 3:19 in when the goalie was out of position. Just over a minute later, Newel scored on a lightning shot to give the Cadets a 7-1 lead. Their final goal of the quarter came again in transition with 5:25 remaining when Newel quickly found Klabonski open in front of the goal. Following this trio, the East Catholic defense again buckled down.

The Eagles did score their second goal in the third, as Hills maneuvered through a group of defenders and beat Donahue low at the 4:39 mark to make it 8-2. In general however, it was another 12 minutes of offensive frustration, as the unit barely possessed the ball following the opening minutes and continued to make uncharacteristic mistakes when it did.

“We just didn’t execute,” Goldberg said. “We tried to avoid some matchups against defenders and should have just focused on playing our game instead. The offense gave St. Joe’s too many scoring opportunities off of turnovers.”

Both defenses continued to play well in the fourth and force offensive mistakes. Donohue also topped off his performance by making a couple of athletic saves. The lone goal scored was by Newel off a pass from Mallozzi with 8:10 remaining.

St. Joe’s head coach Brendan Talbot praised the performance of his defense and Donohue.

“Our younger defenders were dynamite today and did everything we asked of them. Cillian has been the backbone of our defense all year and we’ve known he can help take us far,” Talbot said. “We didn’t expect to hold East Catholic to two goals and doing so is a credit to those kids.”

Boggini though his defense played well overall.

“They were good as usual. After they scored those goals in transition in the first, we made the adjustment to the correct defense and slowed them down consistently,” Boggini said.

East Catholic lost 13-6 to St. Joseph last season before the Cadets defeated Weston in the championship game. Goldberg and Boggini both said it was disappointing to lose again.

“It’s very frustrating to have this occur,” Goldberg said. “After last season, this year we thought we really had this game. It’s sad.”

“We would have liked to beat those guys, it’s a game our players have been anticipating for a long time,” Boggini said. “They’re a good team and we just didn’t play anywhere near our best.”

St. Joseph will face top-seeded Somers (17-2) in the S tournament final on Saturday at McMahon High School. Somers defeated Granby 12-10 Wednesday.

Despite the bitter ending, Goldberg is still very proud of this year’s team.

“I’ll always remember how far everyone came and it says a lot about the team that we made it here. It was a hell of a run.”

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