The mission of any team that makes the CIAC tournament is simple: survive and advance.

And while the Notre Dame-Fairfield boys' soccer team certainly did their best to adhere to those rules, they also wanted to have fun. And have fun they did.

Although the end result of the Lancers' first appearance in the Class S tournament since 1993 was a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Lyman Memorial, coach Whitey Budreckas' team can take pride in the fact that they finished with a .500 record (7-7-3) with a starting unit that's comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores.

"Everyone played well. You can't any more of these kids, what they produced this season. They played well, they got along well," said Budreckas, who had three juniors, 10 sophomores and five freshmen on the roster this season. "The team has been good all season but for whatever reason, we did not play as a unit (against Lyman Memorial). It could have been nerves, first time in (the states) ... hey, like the Brooklyn Dodgers used to say, `Wait `til next year.' "

According to Budreckas, the Lancers were aggressive from the onset and spent much of the first half in the Bulldogs end of the field. In the second half, Notre Dame continued the attack but couldn't find the back of the net.

"In the first half we were playing with the wind and 80 percent of the time, 90 percent of the time we were in their end of the field," Budreckas said. "They'd pack it in and we'd shoot it over the crossbar, just past the post, everything. We just couldn't put the ball into the net. Second half, we start off quite well again. We we're pressuring them 60 to 70 percent of the time."

But with just under a minute left in regulation, a Bulldogs player sent a shot toward the far corner of the Lancers net. Goalkeeper Kevin Franco dove onto the ball, only to have it roll under his chest and into the goal.

"We let a stupid goal in. That's the end of it," Budreckas said. "We out-shot them, we outplayed them. We did everything but win."

Still, there is much to be excited about for next season. In the Southwest Conference, Notre Dame defeated Kolbe (twice) along with beating Immaculate, Bunnell and New Milford, along with tying Pomperaug, New Fairfield and Joel Barlow, a team that Budreckas hadn't has a positive result against until this season in his 12 years at the ND helm.

Even better, freshman Felipe Canzian was named to the All-SWC first team, while freshman Renan Giuberti and Franco, a senior, were named to the All-Patriots division team and Max Cano was chosen as an honorable mention pick.

And that 7-7-3 finish?

"I have not had a .500 season here (12 years), not here. It's tremendous," Budreckas said. "Next year's going to be good."

How does he know? Well, on the 90-minute bus ride back to Fairfield. There was dead silence the entire trip.

"Normally, they're all talking like little girls," Budreckas said. "All the way back I didn't hear one sound, not one. This loss really got to them and I'll bet next year, they won't lose a game like this."

celsberry@ctpost.com, twitter.com/elsctpost