NORWALK — When his current senior class first arrived, Greenwich boys lacrosse coach Scott Bulkley made it a promise.
“When they were freshmen I told them if you do X, Y and Z, I’m going to get you to the state championships, and they did it,” Bulkley recalled.
Fulfilling their part of the bargain, the Cardinals jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and played from ahead the rest of the way, defeating Staples for their first CIAC Class L title, 13-10, on Saturday at Brien McMahon.
“It feels unbelievable,” said Ryan Flippin, one of the Cardinals’ seniors, who finished with one goal and one assist. “We had an unbelievable journey through the state tournament against a bunch of great teams. It stunk not to win in the FCIAC finals, but this is great.”
Greenwich (20-3) was defeated for the second time this season by Darien, in the league title game, one of only two teams it lost to this season. The Cardinals had a difficult draw in the state tournament, first defeating Fairfield Ludlowe, then Fairfield Prep — avenging a regular-season defeat — and finally Ridgefield for the third time this year to reach the final.
Luke Finneran finished with four goals and two assists to lead the Cardinals.
“Give a lot of my teammates credit,” Finneran said. “A lot of them were dodges and I got layups. I’m really proud of our team. It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
Will Perry had three goals and an assist for Greenwich, while James Paradise added two goals and three assists.
Staples (15-6) did a good job of consistently rallying from behind and never letting the Cardinals feel comfortable until the final two minutes. Patrick Lesch and Will Johnson finished with two goals apiece for the Wreckers, who were playing in their second straight final and remain in search of their first title.
Greenwich won faceoffs, dominated possession time and threatened early to turn the game into a rout. Bobby Goggin scored just 1:56 into the game, and Flippin fired in a bullet off a feed from Perry less than a minute later.
The Cardinals doubled their lead by the end of the period as Paradise scored twice, both times on set ups from Finneran.
“Our offense stuck to our game plan,” Finneran said. “We did a good job of feeding our open shooters. But they came back and you have to give Staples credit.”
Pete Blevins, Johnson and Connor Adrian scored just 1:14 apart at the start of the second quarter and the Wreckers, in a common trend on the day, were right back in the game.
“Staples is a good team and they’re not going to walk away and just give up,” Bulkley said. “They got to the state championship for a reason.”
But Greenwich always had an answer and never lost the lead. Decker Curran and Finneran scored before Staples’ Eric Zurmuehle got a goal back off a faceoff to cut the deficit to 6-4 at the half.
Staples twice got within a goal in the third period, and each time Greenwich responded.
And when Finneran scored with 9:40 left in the quarter to end a four-goal run for an 11-6 lead, the Cardinals again appeared to seize control.
Staples made one final run, and Mike Reale’s goal with 5:38 left in the game made the score 12-10.
Perry got the final goal, and the Cardinals stormed the field at the final whistle. During a postgame team picture, Bulkley displayed as much emotion as his players.
“This feels great,” he said. “Just because I know how much and how hard this senior class worked.”
Added Flippin, “Staples kept on fighting but we knew if we did what we had to do on offense and kept plugging away, we’d score goals. This was just an all-around great effort.”