FCIAC Boys Lacrosse: Talent-laden Darien still the team to beat
After going undefeated and winning the FCIAC and state title two years ago, what did the Darien High School boys lacrosse team do for an encore last season? The Blue Wave, of course, proceeded to add two more titles to their collection, capturing the conference and Class L championship.
Returning a wealth of key players, Darien is the team to beat once again. Yet in a league loaded with talent and formidable squads, plenty of teams are capable of becoming champions.
“Right now, we’re in a situation where we have a bull’s-eye on our chest,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “We’ve had it for a number of years, so we’ve become used to being in that situation. We have to be ready to take everybody’s best shot.”
Arch rival New Canaan is one of the teams that will no doubt challenge Darien throughout the season.
“Our conference is so strong,” Rams coach Chip Buzzeo said. “Besides having star players, each team has a great core, which is what wins games. It’s the players around the star players that makes a team really strong. I think it’s going to be another exciting season for our league.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH BY TEAM
Brien McMahon: Will Haskell, Jr.; Peter Ripperger, So.; Carlos Chacua, Jr.; Kevin MacIntyre, Jr.; Roman Fillyaw Jr.; Luke Valdes-Rodriguez Jr.; Shane Kilcoyne, Sr.
Darien: Mark Evanchick, Sr.; Colin Minicus, Sr.; Jack Kniffin, Sr.; Christian Trifone, Sr.; Kevin Lindley, Jr.; Hudson Hamill, Sr.; Riley Stewart, Jr.; Jack Book, Sr.; Finlay Collins, Jr.; Jake Kirby, Sr.; Liam Rischmann, Sr.; Ryan Cornell, Jr.; Jack Joyce, So.; Brian Minicus, So; Will Simpson, Sr.; Rock Stewart, Sr.; Jake Bieler, Jr.; Timmy Graham, Sr.; Bobby Trifone, Sr.; Tanner Strub, So.
Danbury: Connor Warren, Sr.; Justin Warren, Sr.; Brian Conlon, Sr.
Fairfield Warde: Jack Potenza, Sr.; Kyle Gavey, Sr.; Ted Orben, So; Gareth Gacetta, Jr.; R.J. Bebey; Jack Murphy, So.; Gabe Reale, Jr.; Jake Fuss, Sr.; Ryan Gannon, Jr.; Chris Montenegro, So.; Jack Curtis, So.
New Canaan: Kyle Smith, Sr; Ryan O’Connell, Jr.; Peter Swindell, Sr.; Clayton Burt, Sr.; David Strupp, Sr.; Drew Morris, Jr.; Frank Cognetta, Sr.; Michael Cognetta, Sr.
Stamford: Dan Wilmont, Sr.; Tyequan Boneparte, Sr.; Luke Stone, Sr.; Stefan Jones, Jr.
Staples: Mike Reale, Sr.; Connor Chamberlain, Sr.; Ross Goldberg, Sr.; Evan Zinn, So.; Matt Johnson, Sr.; Tanner Wood, Jr.; Peter Burger, Sr.; Josh Willis, Sr.; Drew O’Brien, Sr.; Billy Hutchison, Jr.; Chase Levi, Sr.; Brendan Adrian, So.; Ben Schwaeber, Sr.
Trinity Catholic: Liam Shanahan, Sr.; Justin Greene, Sr.; Cooper Ehring, Sr.
Norwalk: Joseph Laracca, Sr.; Harrison Hefferan, Sr.; Nick LaFranco, Sr.
Westhill: Jack Cebo, Sr.; Justin Wooley, Sr.; Will Hallet, Jr.; John Nilsen, Jr.; Mike Swingler, Jr.
Wilton: R.J. Romeo, Sr.; Harrison Bardwell, Sr.; Michael McGroarty, Sr.; Peter Koch, Jr.; Cory Macdonald, Sr.; Michael Brown, Sr.
Ridgefield: Peter Dearth, Sr.; Chase Levesque, Sr.; Robert Philbin, Sr.; James Wilkinson, Sr.; Harrison Levesque, Sr.; Drew Mullin, Sr.
Fairfield Ludlowe: Tim MacDonald, Sr.; Carter Leibrock, So.; Mitch Wycoff, Sr.; Jack Tague, Jr.
St. Joseph: Mike Sudora, Sr.; Chris Kablonski, Sr.
Greenwich, which is always in the hunt for postseason titles, enters the season with a new coach — former Darien assistant coach Robert Lutz.
“At Greenwich High School, you start every season by talking about winnings FCIACs and winning states,” Lutz said. “We’re in a really competitive league with each team packed with talent. Our players defintely have to bring their ‘A’ game each time out there.”
Ridgefield, which lost to Darien in both the FCIAC and Class L Tournament finals, should make their mark, while Staples and improving Fairfield Ludlowe should be right in the mix.
“Our potential is great, but it’s performance that really counts,” Staples coach Paul McNulty said. “Our players have to perform to their potential for us to have the type of season we want to have. It’s been our goal to do something Staples has never done before, which is win a championship.”
Meanwhile, teams such as Trumbull are hoping to break out of the of the pack and qualify for the playoffs.
“It’s no surprise to expect the FCIAC to be one of the most powerful conferences in the country, led by the usual suspects, Darien, New Canaan, Ridgefield and Greenwich with Staples chomping at the bit,” Trumbull coach Jim Kammerman said. “With coaching and player turnover at some FCIAC schools there seems to be a bit of a log jam in the middle of the pack, leaving a couple of spots up for grabs to make the playoffs.”
TEAMS TO WATCH
DARIEN: The Blue Wave went 20-3 en route to winning the FCIAC and Class L championship last season. Brameier’s squad returns almost everyone from last year’s powerhouse team, including All-American standouts Mark Evanchick and Colin Minicus. With Minicus, Jack Kniffin, Kevin Lindley and Christian Trifone back at attack, containing the Blue Wave’s offense will be a daunting challenge to say the least.
“The last four years our offense was attack oriented, but this year it’s flip flopped to midfield,” said Buzzeo, whose squad also reached the FCIAC semifinals last spring. “Our midfield should create matchup problems.”
RIDGEFIELD: The Tigers, who finished 17-6 last season and made the FCIAC and Class L finals, should be sparked by the presence of Peter Dearth in the midfield. An outstanding playmaker, Dearth leads a deep, talented Ridgefield team.
STAPLES: The Wreckers, who suffered a 12-11 loss to Glastonbury in the Class L quarterfinals, possess a pair of high-scoring attackmen in Mike Reale and Connor Chamberlin. Ross Goldberg should also lead the attack, with Tanner Wood solidifying the midfield. Ben Schwaeber won 77 percent of his faceoffs last season.
WILTON: The Warriors, who advanced to the Class M semifinals last season, where they lost to New Canaan, should be paced by talented midfielder Harrison Bardwell.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
MARK EVANCHICK, DARIEN: The senior defenseman earned All-American, All-State and All-FCIAC honors last season with his outstanding defensive play. The 2015 Hearst Connecticut Media Boys Lacrosse MVP and Connecticut High School Player of the Year will play lacrosse at the University of Pennsylvania next season.
COLIN MINICUS, DARIEN: An All-American, All-State, All-FCIAC selection last spring, Minicus helped spearhead the Blue Wave’s attack. The Amherst-bound Minicus was the squad’s leading scorer last season.
WILL PERRY, GREENWICH: The University of North Carolina-bound Perry should ignite the Cardinals offensively at midfield with his All-American skills.
KYLE SMITH, NEW CANAAN: The midfielder, who will play at Denver University next season, earned All-American, state and conference accolades last season.
HARRISON BARDWELL, WILTON: The All-State selection is one of the Warriors’ top playnakers at midfield.
PETER DEARTH, RIDGEFIELD: Dearth, an All-American selection last season, is a midfielder every foe seeks to tightly mark.
JACK KNIFFIN, DARIEN: The Brown University-bound Kniffin is one of the Blue Wave’s top attackmen.
DREW MORRIS, NEW CANAAN: A member of the All-State team last year, Morris is a tough goalie to score against.
FRANK COGNETTA, NEW CANAAN: One of the anchors of the Rams’ defense.
DAVID STRUPP, NEW CANAAN: Strupp and Cognetta form quite a defensive duo.
CONNOR CHAMBERLAIN, STAPLES: The attackman was the Wreckers’ leading scorer last season.
GAMES TO WATCH
New Canaan at Darien, April 30: This fierce rivalry never disappoints. The Rams edged the Blue Wave, 9-8, during the regular season in 2015, but Darien exacted revenge in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals, posting a 13-7 victory.
Darien at Ridgefield, May 7: This game is a rematch of last season’s FCIAC Tournament finals won by Darien, 9-5, and the Class L title game in which the Blue Wave were victorious, 6-5. The Tigers were victorious against the Blue Wave in the regular season, pulling out a 10-9 win.
Greenwich at Ridgefield, April 12: The Cardinals and Tigers have built quite an impressive rivalry over the past decade. Greenwich had the upperhand in the rivalry until last season, when Ridgefield won two of the three matchups. After the Cardinals notched a 14-13 overtime win, the Tigers eliminated GHS in the FCIAC semifinals (13-6) and in the Class L Tournament semifinals (6-5).
Greenwich at Darien, May 14: Greenwich dealt Darien one of its few losses last season, registering a 12-11 overtime win in the final seconds.
New Canaan at Greenwich, April 21: The Cardinals took a 13-10 decision from the Rams last spring. This matchup is always a physical duel.
New Canaan at Wilton, April 12: A rematch of last year’s Class M Tournament semifinals won by the Rams, 11-7. New Canaan also beat Wilton in the regular season, 10-9.
Ridgefield at Staples, April 29: The Tigers edged the Wreckers, 8-7, in a double overtime classic last season.