Notre Dame-Fairfield's boys lacrosse team, after winning four of five games to get into the playoff hunt, suffered its most lopsided defeat of the spring -- a 17-2 setback to visiting Newtown -- Thursday afternoon.

With that game behind them, the Lancers now look to rediscover their winning ways as they try to finish off their quest to reach the playoffs.

The Lancers, a Division II team in the South-West Conference, fell to 5-6 overall, with five games to play and in need of two more wins to qualify for the CIAC Class S state tournament. Newtown, an SWC Div. I squad, won its sixth straight to improve to 10-2.

The Lancers got goals from Kenneth DuBose (assisted by Craig Hessenius) and Garrett Gintoli. They trailed 3-1 after one quarter, but it was 10-1 by halftime.

"It's a lesson," Notre Dame coach Frank Skawinski said. "A team like Newtown, if you don't go 100 percent on them, they will expose every little thing. It's really a good lesson game.

"They're very, very deep and coach [Glenn] Adams knows how to get everything out of his players," said Skawinski, adding that his team has players with a few years of lacrosse playing experience and Newtown has players who have been honing their skills since the third grade.

"It's a learning game for us," said Skawinski, adding that not only does the strong play on the field expose the Lancers to solid lacrosse, but it reveals what practice can accomplish.

Skawinski wants his players to work at the sport year-round to get better. "They have to keep playing -- it's critical," he said. "Keeping the stick in the hand is the biggest thing I tell them."

All in all, Skawinski is pleased with his team's efforts this season. The Lancers graduated some key players a year ago but are making a strong push to qualify for both the SWC Div. II and state playoffs for the third year in a row.

Senior Tyler Owen is an example of how hard work can pay off, Skawinski said, noting how the three-year player has evolved into a strong faceoff specialist. Among Owen's highlights this year was winning 24 of 29 draws in a 14-13 overtime win against Pomperaug on Tuesday.

Skawinski says his team is likely to face Pomperaug in the first round of the conference playoffs and likes his team's chances given its ability to control the ball thanks to Owen's faceoff controls.

It also took a whopping eight-goal effort from Hessenius, and DuBose netting the OT winner, to pull that game out.

Hessenius has been a go-to scorer. He had six each against Masuk and Rocky Hill. Gintoli, a captain, has also been a key scorer, and Dana Lewis uses his speed to draw double teams and dish the ball to teammates, setting them up for chances. Defensively, the Lancers are led by captain Manny Rosales and Charlie Fallon. Goaltender Andres Rosales made nine saves against Newtown.

Skawinski is confident his team will qualify for the playoffs, and Hessenius seems sure of it.

"We'll make it to the postseason. We have some weaker teams on the schedule still," Hessenius said. "We have to play our game." The Lancers are at their best when "we're moving the ball around, not dropping it, our defense is playing well and making good slides," Hessenius said.

The Lancers will host St. Bernard-Wheeler for its Senior Day game on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Sacred Heart University. The rest of the schedule includes visits to Weston, Lewis Mills and Wamogo, and a home game with Watertown. Then it's on to the playoffs if Notre Dame wins two more games.

A year ago, Weston had a .500 record then won a play-in game en route to winning the Class S championship.

"I'm hoping we can do something like that," Skawinski said.

Andy Hutchison is a freelance reporter