The Fairfield Ludlowe boys lacrosse team knew the injury to a starting attacker for its CIAC Class L qualifying-round game Saturday at Shelton would force the Falcons collectively all around, or through the efforts of a few attackers, to step up if it wanted a spot in the first round Wednesday against No. 2 Greenwich.
The void of injured Riley Larson became an afterthought following Ludlowe's 16-10 victory over the Gaels. Three players on attack recorded hat-tricks, and the pace-setter established what coach Chris Parisi said is a new Falcons' standard for single-game scoring with 10 points.
Graham Browne, a senior, scored five goals and assisted on five others, and was the catalyst as Ludlowe (8-9), the 18th-seeded team in the bracket, moved on to play the Cardinals (16-3), the FCIAC's runner-up.
But to show how well-balanced Ludlowe's attack was, only two of his assists helped feed the other hat-trick players. Two of junior Trevor Demilt's four goals -- he supplied an assist as well -- were set-up by Browne. None of the three goals by Loren Tobey (one assist) were assisted by Browne.
"Graham Browne was playing like a senior," said Parisi, the only coach in Falcons' history. "He had a huge day. He's molding the (younger) players. He just elevated his game."
Browne's record-breaking day was less by design and more a by-product of Ludlowe's well-rounded game. The Falcons bolted to a 6-1 lead after the first quarter, with three goals by Browne and one each by Matt Doyle, Sandberg and Demilt. Shelton's deficit was 10-3 by halftime and 14-5 entering the fourth quarter before a surge of five goals.
Ludlowe's defense was strong, leading to a powerful transition game and much of the damage Browne inflicted on the 15th-seeded Gaels came from converting on the fastbreak. With space and time, while Shelton was trying to catch the Falcons downfield, Browne did not have to break free from defenders; he already was loose. He spotted teammates within the gaps of Shelton's defense or took it aggressively to the cage and showed a deft shooting touch.
Ironically perhaps, after Browne had reached 10 points, one of his shots beat Shelton freshman goalie Tim Schiffer but bounced off the crossbar. Another struck the goalpost a minute or so later.
"I think we needed someone to step up today," Browne said. "I think I did. It helped just getting my confidence. I think we worked well together," he said of his combinations with Demilt. "He's a good shooter. I think I fed him well today."
Shelton coach Matt Read said Ludlowe was a "real solid" team. "It started with their face-off man (senior midfielder Ryan Vitale). He was phenomenal. That kind of hurt us from the get-go. We played from behind."
Browne's first goal of the afternoon came nine seconds into the game and followed Vitale's initial face-off win.
"He (Browne) had some fastbreak goals," Read said. "That will do it to you. He was the finisher today. He had the hot hand."
Read said when Shelton's defense tried to take away the area directly in front of the cage from the Falcons, Ludlowe's fluid attack adjusted by moving the ball to the wings from where its hot shooters fired in goals.
The effective ball movement was noted by Parisi. But he was looking at the bigger picture, after referring to playoff lacrosse as a series of one-game championships. "We're definitely playing our best lacrosse of the season," he said.
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CIAC Class L qualifying round
Fairfield Ludlowe 16, Shelton 10
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 6 4 4 2--16
SHELTON 1 2 2 5--10
Records: Ludlowe 8-9; Shelton 9-8. Scoring: FL--Graham Browne 5 goals, 5 assists, Trevor Demilt (4g, 1a), Loren Tobey (3g, 1a), Sig Sanberg (2g), Matt Doyle (1g,1a), Joe Casucci (1g), Blake Davis (1a), Jack Daily (1a); S--Keith Prior (3g), Chris Schiffer (2g), Jesse Lopez (2g), Paul Russell (2g), Nick Sinko (1g), Josh Kreitler (1a), Kyle McGinnis (1a). Goalies: FL--John Carey (8 saves); S--Tim Schiffer (18). Shots: FL--39; S--31.