WILTON — Reilly Sullivan has become the Wilton boys lacrosse team’s Wrecker killer.
Sullivan’s goal 1:16 into overtime today gave the Warriors a 4-3 win over Staples in the FCIAC quarterfinals. It came exactly three weeks after Sullivan scored the clincher in a 7-6 overtime win between the schools.
Sullivan settled a fierce defensive battle by taking a pass from Liam Sullivan and completing a play the Warriors had been trying to execute all afternoon.
— Dave Ruden (@DaveRuden) May 18, 2019
“We were running our motion offense, trying to get some movements, trying to keep them occupied,” Wilton coach Steve Pearsall said. “They were shutting off our middies with their short sticks so we were playing four on four for most of the game. We were just trying to get someone freed up for a shot off a screen.”
Sullivan found an opening and was true with a blistering shot from eight yards out.
“Liam came off the screen hard, they doubled him and he just threw it back and things just fell into place and we got it done,” Sullivan said. “It feels great. The whole game we were trying to work the screens, come off them and look for the rollback. Staples had been playing great defense the whole game. We really didn’t get a lot of shots in the second half.”
Wilton, the No. 4 seed, will face top-seeded Darien in Tuesday’s semifinals.
The game was dominated by the defenses. Sullivan scored the first goal with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter. Wilton (9-8) took a 3-0 halftime lead on goals by Dean DiNanno and Zach Rossi and held the Wreckers scoreless until freshman Charlie Howard converted on a low shot with 16 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Howard scored again 53 seconds into the final period, and another freshman, Ryan Thompson, tied the game at 3-3 with 6:20 left.
“Give credit to Staples,” Pearsall said. “They persevered and stayed the course and chipped away and tied it up. They certainly got momentum. I give credit to my guys for keeping their focus and staying composed down the stretch.”
Will Koshansky, who has done an outstanding job in his first season as the Wreckers’ coach, said the comeback was keyed not by strategic changes but better execution.
“I don’t know that we did anything too much differently,” Koshansky said. “The halftime message was let’s be a little smarter, let’s not turn the ball over in hectic situations, let’s possess the ball a little bit.”
Fifth-seeded Staples is now 11-5.
Both goaltenders — Wilton’s Andrew Calabrese and Staples’ Timmy Luciano — traded acrobatic saves. Not surprisingly, each coach at the end of the game had compelling reasons to praise his defense.
“Our defense has been fantastic all season,” Pearsall said. “We have some of the best close defenders in the state. We have I think the best goalie in the state. They were playing shutdown defense. And our offense was doing a good job of possessing the ball and keeping it down in the offensive end.”
Said Koshansky, “Maybe it’s a bold statement but I felt all season long we were one of the top defenses in the state. Maybe even the best. My goalie, Timmy Luciano, is a special player. I put him up against any goalie in the state. Our poles are really tough and we’ve got a good system going. Our plan today was supposed to shut off the short sticks to make it really difficult for Wilton’s offense to generate against our poles and I think we saw a lot of success.”
After a 1-7 start, due in part to injuries, the Warriors have come on, winning eight of their last nine games.
“We really hadn’t been able to play together the whole season,” Sullivan said. “It’s just really starting to come together now with everybody back, but everything is clicking and I think it showed in the whole game.”