Like countless others in and around Fairfield County, the Fairfield Prep soccer team spent the previous week digging out and cleaning up in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Even without electricity for most of the week, the Jesuits knew they had to maintain their focus with an SCC semifinal against Xavier looming on Saturday morning regardless of whether their power had been restored.
And that message -- stay focused -- was something the players and coaching staff, whether through group phone calls or Facebook posts, kept stressing even as they had little else to do to keep themselves occupied.
The message to stay on task paid off as Fairfield Prep booked a return trip to the SCC championship game, defeating Xavier 2-1 at Alumni Stadium.
"This is back to normal, right here," Jesuits coach Ryan Lyddy said.
Prep, the defending SCC champion, defeated Xavier twice in the regular season by a combined 8-2 margin. Saturday's encounter was a repeat of much of the same with the Jesuits' suffocating possession-based game leaving the Falcons little opportunity to bother Will Steiner's goal. For all that possession, Prep had little to show for it after the first 40 minutes.
"We said at halftime, if we're patient, we're going to win this game, and I think that's the best advice the coaching staff could have gave, and it showed," Lyddy said.
"It came at me pretty fast so I knew I wanted to make good contact," Bruton said.
The Jesuits doubled their advantage with eight minutes to go when Stephen Tortora muscled off a challenge inside the Xavier penalty area and powered a shot by Camner.
Xavier got a late consolation goal in the 79th minute when Adam Boyington capitalized on a rare Prep defensive lapse, beating an onrushing Steiner with a low shot.
"They have so many weapons offensively," Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald said. "Between the midfielders and the forwards, they keep constant pressure, they keep coming up and up."
Despite minimal organized practice time ahead of the game, Prep looked no worse for wear.
Lyddy works on the grounds crew at Fairfield University and said he would return to cutting down fallen trees as soon as the game was over, but not before praising his team for staying sharp.
"We said soccer is the least on everyone's mind," said Lyddy, who had homes in both Newtown and the Fairfield shoreline damaged by Sandy. "These guys are committed to Prep and they took it in their own hands and worked out on their own. That showed today and we were very loose."
Saturday's game was a welcome respite for the players waiting to get back to a normal routine.
"I kind of had nothing to do all week so I was looking forward to this and just get out there and play," Bruton said.
XAVIER 0 1--1
FAIRFIELD PREP 0 2--2
Records: Xavier 11-5-2; Fairfield Prep 15-2-1; Goals: X--Adam Boyington; FP-- Davie Bruton, Stephen Tortora; Goalies: X--Zach Camner (4 saves); FP--Will Steiner (2)