As one of Connecticut's elite lacrosse programs, Fairfield Prep has often made its loudest statements in the postseason. But, for a change, the Jesuits believed they made one Thursday, in only their sixth game of the season.
Having breezed through their first four games against in-state teams, outscoring opponents 68-14, the Jesuits were eager to test themselves against one of the FCIAC's premier squads at Fairfield University.
They came away feeling pretty good, too.
Riding a string of six unanswered goals into the fourth quarter, the Jesuits surged past, and ultimately held off, Greenwich 12-11 on Thursday at University Field in a non-conference game.
"This was kind of a statement game for us," Jesuits coach Chris Smalkais said. "We haven't really been challenged in our league. We looked forward to this game."
With their only loss against Duxbury, Mass., the Jesuits improved to 5-1 on the year. Greenwich suffered its first loss to fall to 6-1.
"It was definitely a test for us. I think `statement game' is a good way to put it," said Prep senior Burke Smith, who registered a game-high four goals.
After Smith scored to give Prep its largest lead, 11-7 with 7:09 remaining, the Jesuits fended off a late push by Greenwich to notch their fourth straight win. The Cardinals used Michael Sullivan's prowess in the faceoff circle to score three straight goals over a span of 90 seconds to climb within 11-10.
"One of the things we hang our hat on is we're never out of a game," Greenwich coach Scott Bulkley said. "I tip my hat to Prep. They played very hard."
Greenwich led 7-5 with 4:35 left in the third on Kyle Foote's goal, but Smith answered for the Jesuits only 11 seconds later. Junior Pat Lambert evened the score with three minutes remaining and Chris Brown put the Jesuits ahead for the first time since the first half, 8-7.
Smith said the Jesuits' energy keyed the comeback.
"We never let down," he said.
Four straight faceoff wins by Sullivan turned the momentum in Greenwich's favor late, but a turnover with 38.2 seconds remaining proved costly. Harris' fourth assist of the game set up Smith's goal with 27.5 seconds left, making it 12-10.
"You get into a rhythm like that," Bulkley said of the faceoff wins. "He did a good job; it was just a little too much too late."
Greenwich also fell just short of beating Prep last year, losing 7-6 to the Jesuits at home. The Jesuits went on to win both the SCC and Class L titles.
"You challenge your athletes to compete," Smalkais said. "We played with great compete today. That is something that you can't teach."
The Cardinals trailed 2-0 in the first quarter before reeling off three straight goals to grab their first lead. They led by two goals before Harris brought Prep within 4-3 with 21 seconds left in the first half.
Fairfield Prep 12, Greenwich 11
GREENWICH 1 3 3 4--11
FAIRFIELD PREP 2 1 6 3--12
Records: Greenwich 6-1; Prep 5-1. Scoring: G--Decker Curran (3 goals), James Paradise (2g), Luke Finneran (2g), Ryan Flippin (1g, 1a), Kyle Foote (1g), Michael Sullivan (1g), Will Perry (1g), Sam Saleeby (1a). FP--Burke Smith (4g), Chris Brown (3g), John Edmonds (2g, 1a), Cam Harris (1g, 4a), Austin Sims (1g, 2a), Pat Lambert (1g). Goalies: G--Thomas Rogan (7 saves); FP--Jack O'Connor (10). Shots: G--31; FP--27.