Boys lax falls in tight FCIAC final

NORWALK -- The final minute of last Friday night's boys lacrosse final between Greenwich and New Canaan High School seemed to last an entire quarter, as players from both teams frantically scrambled for the ball in an intense, one-goal game. And when time finally expired, it was the team which built an all-important, early five-goal lead that hung on and garnered the coveted FCIAC title.

Fifth-seeded Greenwich concluded its joy ride through the FCIACs, recording a dramatic 5-4 victory over third-seeded New Canaan in the championship game before a packed house at Jack Casagrande Field at Brien McMahon High.

Freshman midfielder Alex Moeser and junior attack Pete Cabrera scored twice and MVP Daniel Feeney made six saves to help power the Cardinals (11-7), who defeated three teams in the tournament that beat them during the regular season.

Greenwich controlled the ball the majority of the first quarter and it reflected on the scoreboard, as it took a 3-0 lead. Moeser opened the scoring 2:54 into the quarter. After deking a defender, he found an opening and blasted a shot from the left side past New Canaan goalie Thomas Carey, giving GHS a 1-0 edge.

Junior Eric Foote put Greenwich ahead 2-0 at the 4:53 mark, tallying off a strong run from behind the goal. Cabrera notched his first goal of the evening with :56.9 to go in the quarter, bouncing a shot by Carey. He then fired a laser inside the right post 43 seconds into the second quarter, putting the Cardinals on top 4-0.

"Everyone on this team stepped up the second half of the season," Cabrera said. "Feeney stepped up and played great in goal for us. My teammates put me in a great position offensively tonight. I was able to catch and shoot on those goals."

Carey kept it a 4-0 game with several impressive saves until Moeser found the back of the net with 5:31 to go in the second quarter.

Scott O'Brien scored off a pass from Todd Bratches for New Canaan's first goal with 3:54 to go in the second quarter. Joe Costigan, Ian Knechtle and Henry Eschricht tallied for the Rams in the third quarter, making it anyone's game at 5-4. Eschricht's goal came in transition off a long pass from Costigan, capping the Rams' 4-0 run with 1:40 remaining in the third quarter.

"We came out slow to start the game and then we started to get going in the second quarter," Costigan said.

Rams head coach Alex Whitten looked at the big picture and saw why his team missed its chance to win a conference title.

"Tonight, we didn't execute," Whitten said. "We gave up five straight goals, which is unacceptable. But give Greenwich credit they played a strong game."

The Cardinals, who upended Ridgefield in the quarterfinals and top-seeded Darien in the semifinals, were clearly a different team than the one that opened the season with a 10-4 loss to New Canaan (15-4).

"It still hasn't sunk in that we won FCIACs," GHS first-year coach Scott Bulkley said. "It hasn't sunk in that we were in the finals, let alone winning it. One of the things that we said is that if we keep working hard during the season we will get have a chance to beat the teams that beat us earlier in the year."

O'Brien, Costigan, Knechtle and Eschricht each helped pace New Canaan, which trailed 5-1 at halftime, but outscored GHS 3-0 in the third quarter. The Rams tried to rally for the equalizer during the final quarter, but Feeney and Greenwich's defense -- led by P.J. Schwabe and Adam Sands -- stood strong. New Canaan was unable to rally and frenzy the game like it's done so often in 2010.

"I can't believe we held them scoreless in the fourth quarter, just like we held Darien scoreless in the fourth quarter. Our defense was really unbelievable tonight," Feeney said.

As they did against top-seeded Darien earlier in the week, the Cards patiently passed the ball around the perimeter in search of open shots. When they came, Greenwich converted them -- primarily in the first half.

"We wanted to possess the ball, calm the ball and control the tempo of the game," Moeser said. "It was important that we got out to that early lead. Our defense played great again."

Both goalies rose to the occasion, with Feeney stopping six shots and Carey making seven saves.

"He's really amazing," Bulkley said of Feeney. "He finds ways to make saves and throws shooters off with his style of play."

The Rams were a man-up twice in the fourth quarter, but couldn't capitalize as the Cardinals clamped down defensively and soared to another exciting victory.

"It's been an unbelievable journey," Cardinals senior co-captain and midfielder Colin Dunster said. "They beat us the first game of the year and a lot of us weren't in the best of shape. We have improved so much since then."

Now the Rams prepare for another run at a title, as the state tournament begins with a first-round game at home against Pomperaug Thursday.