As the higher seed, West Hartford’s Hall High School boys lacrosse team hosted Ridgefield in the Class L tournament semifinals.
By Paul Palmer
It was quite a season for Hall High’s boy’s lacrosse team in 2021.
They entered Wednesday’s Class L State Championship semifinal with a 13-3 record, including a 10-game win streak in the middle of the season. They were a No. 7 seed in the boy’s tourney, ranked No. 10 in the state, and were hosting their second game of the playoffs.
Facing No. 14 Ridgefield, which made the tourney by winning a qualifier and then knocking off a No. 3 and No. 6 seed, a victory meant a shot at the state title. On a hot, humid day at Chalmers Stadium, Ridgefield would use an oppressive offense, stellar work from the faceoff, and some timely saves in net to end the Warriors run, 17-5.
The final score did not do justice to the effort put forth by both teams.
It started for the Tigers just 39 seconds into the game when Matt Martinez won the opening faceoff and got a quick shot on goal before Jackson Penn scored off a rebound. Two minutes later it was Ryan Colsey scoring on a nice feed from behind the net and Ridgefield was up 2-0.
Hall would find the going tough early on as the Tigers controlled the ball and pace of play, and the Warriors made several unforced errors to turn the ball back over to the visitors when they did get possession. “We fell back into a rushed mindset, feeling that we had to pass the ball quickly,” said Hall second-year coach Jared Krikorian. “We needed to get possession and slow it down.”
Ridgefield would add two more goal in a 1:40 span of the first, as they kept the Hall defense and goalie Campbell Manolis under fire dominating the opening 12 minutes and coming away with a 4-0 lead.
As the second quarter began, Hall had its best chance to score, but Ridgefield goalie Matt Shepard came up big against Logan Murphy. The Tigers took the ball on the ensuing possession and executed a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with Colsey scoring again.
Hall would find itself down 6-0 before the Warriors would find the net. With 5:11 to play in the second, Aidan Guzman drove hard to the net and found a cutting Matt Farber for the goal. After surrendering another goal, Hall would get another one back when speedster Teddy Gianoulis turned a strong one man effort into a score. But Ridgefield would once again take over the game from there, putting in two more to build a halftime e lead of 9-2.
No one would have blamed the boisterous crowd or even the players themselves for getting down at the break. The Tigers had dominated in almost every facet of the game and Hall’s defense was under pressure for large stretches of the first half. ”At times, our defense matched up well,” said Krikorian. “Both Campbell and Duncan [Hollander] played solid all day.”
That desire was tested early as Ridgefield picked up where it left off scoring two more goals in the first 3 minutes of the third. Hall took a penalty with just under 5½ minutes to go in the third, but as time was expiring on it, senior defenseman Issac Levine pushed a loose ball to an open spot, scooped it up and went on a full field sprint and then found Brooks McConnell in front who scored the goal.
The play and score were typical of the Hall effort all day. Although they were being dominated, they never quit, fought for every ball, and stood tall under a persistent attack from Ridgefield. With Manolis continuing his strong play in net, Hall scored what would have been its fourth goal, but the referees took it away saying McConnell was in the crease when he scored. That seemed to re-awaken the visitors as Ridgefield would score twice more to push it to a 10-goal lead by the end of the third.
As what would be the final 12 minutes of high school lacrosse for Hall’s 18 seniors got underway, Ridgefield would score two early goals before Manolis, who despite the score line was outstanding in net, took the ball from his own crease, avoided three would-be checks, and carried the ball deep into the attacking zone. After getting the ball to Grant Kanaga, he ran back into his net, and as he did, Kanaga found McConnell for the whip shot goal from about 15 yards out.
Hall would end the scoring with just 1:11 go when Farber scored again, making the final 17-5.
After the game, an emotional Krikorian told his players to be proud, and with tears in his eyes told the team he was lucky to have coached them. Krikorian was then joined in the huddle by his niece, Demi, and in a fitting tribute the team ended it by loudly proclaiming “family” – a theme they carried throughout this magical season.
“I am most proud that we finished this with all of our heart,” said the Hall coach. “They fought to the last second and you can’t ask anything else. I am proud and honored to be their coach.”
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