WESTPORT — After blowing a 5-1 lead by yielding six unanswered second-half goals in a regular-season loss to Staples, revenge was a theme for the defensive-minded Ridgefield boys lacrosse team in Saturday’s rematch.
Keeping its season and championship hopes alive was a greater rallying point.
In a sparkling performance in all facets, the Tigers jumped out to a 7-2 advantage, withstood a brief flurry and then pulled away for a 13-5 win over the Wreckers in the Class L quarterfinals.
While the Tigers were more assertive playing with a late lead than usual, it was their defense that had the greatest impact on the outcome. Three of Staples’ goals came in man-up situations.
“The kids looked great,” Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey said. “That’s what we start with. We have to start from the defensive end of the field and work our way upfield. The offense did a good job. Their goalie made some good saves early and we did a good job of being patient and recognize as the game went on where the open spots were.”
The specified slider is trashed.
Ridgefield (16-3), seeded fifth, will play No. 1 Darien in Wednesday’s semifinals.
“Last time being on this field we really broke down in the second half so that was really kind of a boost for us to come out in the second half and give our best effort,” said Chase Levesque, one of the Tigers’ defensive leaders. “We talked about refocusing at halftime. That was important for us.”
Greg Gatto scored four goals to lead Ridgefield. Drew Fowler finished with a hat trick, while Schuyler Blair and Mark Galione added two scores apiece.
Staples, which two weeks earlier won its first FCIAC Tournament game, ended the season at 16-4.
While the Tigers were never threatened, if there was a turning point it came at the start of the second half. Michael Reale and Tanner Wood had scored for the Wreckers in the final 1:21 before the break to cut the deficit to 7-4.
Staples possessed the ball for nearly all of the first six minutes of the third quarter, but could not score. Fowler then scored in front off a beautiful feed from Blair, who then finished a goal of his own off a pretty spin move in the last minute of the period for a 9-4 lead.
“Boy that was a long possession and if we get gassed there we may turn this thing into a dogfight, but we didn’t have to,” Colsey said. “The turn of events and getting a goal down there not long after that was probably the breaking point.”
Reale, who is now Staples’ all-time scoring leader, finished with two goals. Peter Burger, hot in the opening minutes, stopped 12 shots in goal.
Ridgefield got strong play from freshman Dan Parson, who came on in the second half for Kris Klemm, who matched Burger with three saves in the first five minutes.
“Dan’s also a great goalie,” Colsey said. “I didn’t think that Kris was seeing the ball great in the first half and I told myself if I got in that situation I had to trust the next man and he played great.”
Ridgefield and Darien met in last year’s state final, with the Blue Wave holding on for a 6-5 lead. They also won the teams’ regular-season meeting, 11-5.
Colsey called it time “to go back to the lab.”
Levesque said he was hopeful for a different outcome.
“I think we can give them a better matchup with better defense,” Levesque said. “We are playing at the peak of our game right now and that’s really good for us. They’re a great team. They have a lot of skill players. We have a lot of heart, we have a lot of hustle. We may not be as skilled as them but we definitely have as much passion for the game and we can definitely hang with them I think.”