FAIRFIELD — Fairfield Prep saw its season come to an end in the state tournament the past two seasons with losses to Greenwich, and Saturday the Cardinals were closing in on handing the Jesuits another postseason defeat.
Greenwich held a one-goal lead with less than two minutes remaining in Saturday’s Class L Tournament quarterfinal, but rival Fairfield Prep wasn’t about to stay home the remainder of the playoffs, courtesy of the Cardinals, this time.
Capitalizing on a man-up situation, sixth-seeded Fairfield Prep scored two unanswered goals during a 27-second span and rallied to post a dramatic 11-10 comeback win over 14th-seeded Greenwich in the quarterfinals of the CIAC Class L Tournament.
The Jesuits (17-3) advanced to Wednesday’s semifinals, where they will play second-seeded Simsbury at a site and time yet to be determined. Simsbury earned a berth in the semifinals by edging seventh-seeded Wilton 14-13.
Junior standout Mitchell Savoca scored four goals, including the game-winner with just 54.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter for Fairfield Prep.
On the winning goal, Savoca gathered a loose ball that came off the stick of teammate Kevin Edmonds. Positioned on the left side near the crease, Savoca quickly put a shot past GHS senior goalie Bennett Cooper to give the Jesuits an 11-10 edge.
“We were running a play that we usually get great looks out of, and I just picked the ball up and was able to put it in the back of the net,” Savoca said. “Even though we were trailing, we have faith in our whole team. We knew what we had to do at the end of the game and we did it.”
The Cardinals were in prime position to possibly take time off the clock and advance after seizing a 10-9 lead with 1:47 left in the final quarter. Junior Addison Muir’s goal off a perfectly-placed pass from senior attack Michael Sands put Greenwich on top by one goal. Following a timeout, the Jesuits were awarded the ball and had an unreleasable man-up advantage after the Cardinals were charged with a stick violation (pocket on stick was too deep), and the home team capitalized.
“I feel we were in position to win the game — a one-goal lead with two minutes left,” said GHS coach Bobby Lutz, who concluded his first season at the helm. “It’s tough to play a man-down for two minutes. But I can’t ask for more than what they gave me.”
Senior Brendan Hoffman recorded four goals, three of which came during the fourth quarter for Prep, which led 5-4 at halftime.
“We’ve been battle-tested,” said Jesuits coach Chris Smalkais, whose squad lost to GHS in the tournament’s opening round last spring. “We’ve played a lot of really good teams and been in close games. Today, we showed a lot of perseverance. We didn’t lose our composure.”
Senior midfielder Will Perry had a hat trick with one assist, sophomore attack Matt Baugher scored three goals and Sands added one goal and three assists for Greenwich in the back-and-forth battle.
“The whole season we put in a lot of work on and off the field,” Perry said. “It’s a shame it had to come to an end right now, but Prep is a good team. Stuff happens in lacrosse, they just came out on top this time.”
Junior Bailey Savio was dominant at the faceoff X for the Cards, winning 18 of 20 faceoffs.
“They have one of the best faceoff guys in the state, and we had trouble with that,” Smalkais said. “We had to counter that with passion.”
Sprinting from behind the goal, Perry turned the corner, got an angle and put a blistering by Jesuits senior goalie John O’Connor, making it 7-6 with 10:38 to go in the game. After Savio won another faceoff, Baugher tallied in transition off a feed from Sands, putting the Cardinals ahead 8-6 at the 10:30 mark.
A man-up goal by Savoca cut Greenwich’s advantage to 8-7, and back-to-back tallys from Hoffman from 10-yards out gave the Jesuits a 9-8 lead with 5:31 to play. Baugher knotted the score at 9-9 for the Cards, sneaking a shot past O’Connor while falling to the turf with 4:18 to go in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 11-10, GHS had the game’s final possession with 50 seconds remaining, but the Jesuits stood strong defensively, preventing the Cardinals from tallying the equalizer.
“They have very good offensive players,” said Fairfield Prep senior Aiden Coyle, who helped lead the Jesuits’ solid defensive effort. “Will Perry is tough to stop and Scooter Harrington and Michael Sands are really good. That last possession, we were trying to slide early, get the ball on the ground, cause a turnover and get out with a win.”
Said Jesuits junior James Loughran, a Greenwich resident: “The last two years they knocked us out of the postseason, so there’s nothing like beating them this year.”
Goals from Perry and Sands gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead after their first two possessions of the second quarter. After junior Chris Brown tallied for the Jesuits, Perry went top shelf for a goal, making it 4-2. The home team ended the opening half with three straight goals before Harrington knotted the score at 5-5 with a goal 2:50 into the third quarter. Cooper made four saves for the Cardinals, who finished their season at 11-8.
“Overall, it was a successful season,” Lutz said. “They kids played well and they learned a lot. I’m expecting good things from them in the coming years.”
O’Connor made nine saves in goal for Fairfield Prep, which has faced Greenwich eight times in the state tournament since 2006. The Jesuits are 6-2 against the Cardinals in those postseason matchups.
“It feels great to be moving on to the next round,” Savoca said. “We knew we had to keep playing as hard as we could to go to the next round.”
FAIRFIELD PREP 11, GREENWICH 10
GREENWICH 1 3 2 4 — 10
FAIRFIELD PREP 1 4 1 5 — 11
Scoring: G — Will Perry 3 g, 1 a; Addison Muir 1 g; Michael Sands 1 g, 3 a; Matt Baugher 3 g; Scooter Harrington 1 g; Sean Doherty 1 g; FP — Brendan Hoffman 4 g; Mitchell Savoca 4 g 1 a; Ethan Grandolfo 1 g; Kevin Edmonds 1 g; Chris Brown 1 g; John McGee 1 a; Goalies: G — Bennett Cooper (4 saves); John O’Connor (9 saves).