NEW CANAAN — The New Canaan boys lacrosse team gave Trent Nader most of Saturday afternoon off.
Not that that the Rams’ senior goaltender was complaining. On a day filled with sentiment and purpose, Nader was sharp during the few times he was tested during the Rams’ 16-1 win over New Fairfield in the Class M semifinals.
“The ball wasn’t in our end too long but when it was I thought we played really well,” said Nader, who split time in goal as coach Chip Buzzeo again was liberal with his substitutions. “Our defense really stepped up.”
Nader was one of 18 seniors playing for the final time at Dunning Field, which provided additional impetus to a team already driven by a singular focus.
“It was our last game here and the second to last chance I think we’re going to wear white,” said Harry Stanton, who along with Cole Turpin finished with a team-high three goals. “It means a lot to us. A lot of us have been playing here since the 4th grade. New Fairfield has been a good team and we came out with a lot of intensity and it’s a pretty special feeling.”
The Rams (16-4), the No. 3 seed, will face Joel Barlow, the team that eliminated them a year ago, in Wednesday’s semifinals at Fairfield Ludlowe.
With a win the New Canaan players will them find themselves in an uncustomary position: rooting hard for Darien, which will be playing in the second game of a doubleheader.
The Rams have not even attempted to conceal how driven they are for a third chance — which would come in the final — at their biggest rival, a team that has defeated them twice in overtime this season, most recently in the FCIAC semifinals.
Following a first-round win over RHAM, the Rams were faced with questions about playing the Blue Wave one more time by reporters.
Following Saturday’s game, the conversation came unprompted.
“We’ve only got one more chance left for Darien and we’re taking everything seriously, working really hard,” Nader said. “The third time is the charm.”
Stanton made reference to the Blue Wave when discussing what seemed like a progression in ferocity by the Rams during the state playoffs.
“That’s how we have to play the playoffs, to get better with each game,” Stanton said. “We’re playing our best lacrosse right now. We’re looking forward to Barlow and we know what’s on the other side. We’re picturing blue.”
Even New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo was forthright on the subject as his players went dashing behind him.
“We really want to play Darien again,” Buzzeo said. “When you see a team sprinting after a game they’re not doing it for fun.”
For the second straight game in the tournament the Rams set an early tone and dominated. Kyle Smith scored just 63 seconds in and by the end of the quarter New Canaan had a 7-0 lead.
That was extended to 11-0 at halftime.
“We’re hoping to keep the intensity level up. That’s a good team,” Buzzeo said of New Fairfield. “They have a lot of good wins. I’m surprised they stayed in a zone as long as they did. Teams that try zone against us after two or three goals, they usually go man because it’s really hard to play zone defense against our offense.”
Smith, Teddy Bossidy and Max Begoon added two goals apiece for the Rams. Buzzeo played all of his seniors during the final period.
Said Stanton, “It was a good sendoff for the seniors.”