The postseason felt like it started a little early for members of Newtown High School’s boys’ lacrosse team, as they tangled in an inter-conference battle with the FCIAC’s Staples of Westport squad at Blue & Gold Stadium on May 15.
Despite coming up a goal short, falling 5-4, the team enters into the actual postseason with reason for optimism. Not only did the Nighthawks rebound for a win over fellow South-West Conference team Brookfield on May 20, but they had reason to be confident following that Staples game.
The Nighthawks managed to hang close with the Wreckers despite leaning on three players to share goaltending responsibilities due to various in-game injuries. They nearly handed a team, in what Newtown Coach Glenn Adams notes is the best lacrosse conference in the state, only its fifth loss.
Instead, Newtown fell to 11-4 overall before capping off the campaign with an 8-3 win over Brookfield to finish at 12-4 (5-1 in SWC play).
“I think we saw all the adversity a team could see in an entire season — in one game,” Adams said of losing his starting goaltender, Jon Rospenda, to an early second-quarter injury, then seeing backup Tommy Elliot temporarily exit the game in favor of attack player Brad Kretz, after also being stunned by a shot.
“I think we defended well and played hard for the whole game,” said Adams, whose team held the Wreckers scoreless through the first half en route to a 2-0 lead.
Rospenda made one save before exiting. Elliot compiled 14 stops to keep his team in the game, and Kretz suited up to make one key save before Elliot regrouped after taking a hard shot off the facemask.
“Tommy made some great saves,” Adams said.
Ryan Sullivan scored twice, and Jared Pearson and Matt Meyers also hit the back of the net for Newtown, but it was the defense that stood out in this low-scoring clash.
The Wreckers scored only a dozen seconds into the second half before Newtown answered. But Staples got the next three before Meyers evened things at four apiece in the fourth. Will Johnson completed his hat-trick performance by netting the winner late in regulation.
“Newtown is a very good team and they played very well and inspired,” Staples Coach Paul McNulty said. “And we had to match that.”
The Nighthawks, in their next game, had to match a strong effort by Brookfield. Newtown trailed 2-1 after one quarter and found itself locked up in a 3-3 tie at halftime but outscored the Bobcats 5-0 in the third and fourth quarters to pull away.
Newtown’s only in-conference loss in the regular season was a 12-4 setback to Joel Barlow of Redding on April 24.
Newtown earned the No. 2 seed in the SWC tourney and a first-round bye in the conference playoffs. The Nighthawks will begin postseason play on Tuesday, May 27, with a 7 pm game at New Fairfield High’s field. The Hawks will face the winner of No. 3 New Milford and No. 6 New Fairfield in that contest.