Ellington Lacrosse Ends Great Season With Loss to Somers in Semis

GRANBY-Ellington High School boys lacrosse put a tough fight up in the second half against Somers, but it was too little too late. The No 4 Knights lost 15-8 to the top-seeded Spartans in the Class S Tournament semifinals Wednesday afternoon at Granby Memorial.

Somers (18-1) was in control throughout the first half and led Ellington (14-5) 10-2 at halftime. The Knights played much better in the second half on both offense and defense, but could not get closer than six goals. The loss was their third to the Spartans this season, although it was much closer than the first two.

The Spartans will face No. 2 Waterford in the championship game on Saturday at McMahon.

Sophomore midfielder Steven Moller led the way for Ellington, finishing with three goals. Freshman attacker Blake Printy recorded two goals and one assist, and senior attacker Zack Dougherty ended his memorable career with another great game, earning three assists and one goal. Dom Giachello was on fire for Somers, finishing with five goals and two assists, and Joe Mongillo scored four times.

“Somers is really good offensively, and we didn’t do what we needed to do in the first half,” Ellington head coach Dave Giordano said. “We had a lot of unforced turnovers and against a team like Somers, that’s what will kill you. You have to play four quarters of lacrosse against them.”

The Spartans wasted no time getting going on offense in the first quarter. Avery Foye opened the scoring when he beat senior goalie Sam Greenberg low off a pass from Dom Giachello 1:09 in. A minute later, Mongillo scored on a solo fast break to make it 2-0. Senior midfielder Colby Unterstein responded with the Knights first goal 4:52 in, firing a shot past Christopher Allen’s right shoulder.

Unfortunately for Ellington, Somers brushed Unterstein’s goal off and got right back on track. The Giachello brothers (Dom and Dante) scored the team’s third and fourth goals with 6:17 and 5:04 remaining in the first, and Dom scored again with 2:03 to go to make it 5-1. Captain Christian Paley scored the Spartans final goal with five seconds on the clock. On each of these goals, the Spartan players demonstrated excellent speed and agility and good ball movement, consistently placing Knights defenders out of position. The final two goals were particularly impressive, as Dom and Paley both cut in front of the goal from its back and fired close shots past Greenberg.

Ellington’s defense continued to struggle to slow down Somers at the beginning of the second. Mongillo and Riley Burgmyer scored in the opening three minutes to make it 8-1. The Knights tightened up on defense and improved their passing in the next few minutes, resulting in Dougherty’s goal at the 5:14 mark off a smooth pass from Unterstein. Their offense was unable to capitalize again however, and the Spartans scored twice more to take a 10-2 lead into halftime. Dom again showed off his great scoring skills, maneuvering past the tight defense to fire shots in low and to Greenberg’s right with 5:05 and then 3:58 remaining.

Ellington’s offense looked completely out of sync throughout the first half. While the Spartans defense pressured it well and regularly forced players into difficult passes and shots, Knights players did not do themselves any favors. They made multiple unforced turnovers, with the most frequent being passes over the heads or out of the reach of teammates. Ellington also failed to take accurate shots on good scoring opportunities, with these shots well wide of the goal.

Moller and Unterstein discussed the offensive shortcomings in the half.

“We rushed into things too quickly and were not possessing the ball as well as we could of,” Moller said. “We shied away from slowing things down, which was part of our game plan.”

“We just didn’t possess the ball long enough. We let them get the ball a lot and whenever they had it they seemed to score,” Unterstein said.

Ellington’s play improved significantly for Ellington in the second half, in which they regularly outplayed Somers. Mongillo opened the third with a goal 2:22 in to make it 11-2. However, the Knights defense increased its aggressiveness and limited ball movement over the next few minutes, shortening the Spartans possessions and giving the offense a chance to take advantage. Junior midfielder Hunter Neal was the first one to do so, beating Allen high at 5:22 off a pass from Dougherty. After Ellington was wide on multiple shots and also had two passes blocked, Moller stepped up. The sophomore star scored twice in 31 seconds, cutting the deficit to 11-5 with 2:03 remaining in the quarter. Moller’s goals were both close and to Allen’s right, and were set up by excellent passes from Neal and Dougherty.

Just when it seemed like the Knights held all the momentum, Somers reminded their players and fans why it has the top seed. The Spartans scored three goals in the final 1:47 to take a 14-5 advantage into the fourth and help secure the win. The Giachello’s and Mongillo were again the culprits, with the trio showing a unique ability to navigate through defensive traffic.

Ellington played well in the final 12 minutes of its season, outscoring Somers 3-1. It possessed the ball a large majority of the fourth, as the offense avoided turnovers and the defense did a strong job of crowding ball handlers. Neal, Unterstein and Printy scored in the quarter, each making stylish shots. Paley scored the Spartans final goal.

Giordano praised his players’ effort in the second half.

“I was very happy with the performance. We tightened things up and played make it, take it lacrosse and were able to put more points up. They didn’t quit at all and played the full 48 minutes. It was a far better performance than the first two times we played.”

“As soon as we settled down, that’s when the goals started coming around,” Moller said about Ellington’s second half play. “On defense, we definitely slowed down their transition offense and made them work for goals. We showed our true potential.”

The Knights program had its most successful season in 2017, earning its second-most wins and advancing the furthest it has in the playoffs. Giordano discussed what made this team unique in its program’s history.

“Their commitment to excellence was special. They’re always dedicated to work, and it’s that type of mentality and character that we saw this season. It’s a great group of kids. This is our most successful team, and this senior class has played together since they were kids. We were playing with house money today.”

As his team packed up, Unterstein reflected on his career and what his team accomplished.

“It’s satisfying to get this far after how much we struggled our freshman and sophomore years. Going from 2-14 as freshman to the final four now is definitely a huge accomplishment. I really enjoyed my four years, and the program is in good shape.”

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