Newington senior captain Sam Cultrera is defended by Luke Whitaker.
Newington boys’ lacrosse came out of the gates quickly on Senior Night, scoring a pair of goals to draw first blood against Wethersfield, before the Eagles stormed back to defeat the Nor’easters 18-7 in a key Central Connecticut Conference showdown on Monday, May 2.
Playing at a packed house at Clem Lemire Complex in Newington, goals by attackers Everett Hillman and Kyle Bross provided the home team a 2-0 lead in the first quarter.
Wethersfield responded by scoring 10 of the next 12 goals to break the game open.
Junior captain Wil Bankowski scored four of his game-high seven goals during the first-quarter turnaround.
“It feels amazing. Going against a rival in their house and beating them,” said Bankowski, who added the team wasn’t worried about the early deficit.
Slow starts and strong finishes are something Wethersfield has become accustomed to this spring.
“Sometimes we are a slow starting team. We’re not focusing on what is right in front of us and we lose our composure,” said Wethersfield head coach Bruce Cutkomp. “But these guys really responded and we just played our game. We have a really talented offense and a really fast defense, so as long as we play our game we can control the ball and the pace of the game.”
The Eagles expanded the lead in the second quarter, as Bankowski and his fellow attackers Matt Ruck and Colby Quinn continued to spark the scoreboard.
Ruck found the back of the net early in the second quarter and then Bankowski scored following a fantastic feed from Quinn. Bankowski then assisted Ruck on a goal less than a minute later.
Quinn added two goals in the final minute of the first half, including a backbreaker with eight second remaining to give the Eagles a gaudy 15-5 lead at the break.
Quinn ended the night with five goals and Ruck tallied four.
After allowing four goals in the opening quarter, WHS goalie Cooper Moreau and his defensive mates were rock solid the rest of the game and allowed only three goals over the final 36 minutes.
Moreau, a captain in his second year in both roles, made 13 saves.
“Unfortunately we go down a lot, but we are a great team at rebounding,” said Moreau. “Lacrosse is a game of runs. Not everything is going to go your way, so when you get the opportunities you just have to make sure they count.”
Helping Moreau protect the backend is a senior-heavy defense headed by Tanner Healy, Will McKenna, and T.J. Mayfield.
Newington did their best to respond in the second half as Bross scored midway through the third after getting an assist from Paddy Brown. However, it was too little, too late as they didn’t add another goal until 2:38 to play in regulation when Joey D'Amato scored.
Bross had a team-high four goals, while Brown served up three assists and scored a goal.
“One of the things that is challenging with a young team is finding that consistency,” said Newington first-year head coach Chris Siewertsen, “You get locked in and you’re excited to get going, but a couple of goals go in the other way and it’s about how you respond. Those are the types of things we’re trying to work out with these guys.”
Siewertsen took over the program in October, coming to Newington with 15 years of coaching experience, most recently at Rockville High School.
He said the seniors, who were recognized prior to the game, have been instrumental with helping him transition into his new position.
“They have stepped up in a big way this year. We lost a lot of seniors last year so these guys have had to step in and we’ve asked a lot of things from them this year that they haven’t had to do in the past,” added Siewertsen. “They have been put in uncomfortable positions and they have responded. We are a young team and the seniors have been a good example for the younger players.”
Seniors RJ Longo (captain), Sam Cultrera (captain), Dylan Casey, Will Lynch, Chris Johnson, Zach Aldieri, and Corey Smith have been the veteran voice on the field for Siewertsen this year.
Despite it being a rebuilding year, Newington has chalked up three impressive victories this season, including a pair of wins over the Bristol co-op and a 17-2 win over Enfield.
The loss was the ninth for the Nor’easters and the seventh win for the Eagles, qualifying them for the postseason for a second straight year.
Last year Wethersfield won 14 of 15 regular season games in their first official varsity season. This year they have faced a tougher regular season schedule and Cutkomp hopes it pays dividends when the state tournament rolls around.
Despite dropping a game to Sheehan (11-7) on May 4, Cutkomp liked the team’s defensive intensity, particularly in the second half.
Even when the team had a double-digit lead against Newington, Cutkomp kept imploring his team to keep attacking.
“We want to keep the emphasis on keeping that gas pedal down and putting up a big number to put the teams away,” said Cutkomp.
Entering the week, the Eagles stand at 8-3 after defeating Conard 12-9 on May 12. They close the regular season at RHAM High School on Saturday, May 21 at 10:00 a.m.
Bankowski said faster starts are the key to a deep postseason run and Moreau said it will come down to becoming a more “gritty team” along with stressing the mental part of the game.
Newington rebounded from the loss to Wethersfield by downing Rocky Hill 11-7 on May 12 behind four goals from D’Amato and two goals apiece from Hillman, Bross, and Brown.
Wethersfield #4 Shane Mazur chases down a loose ball as Newington's #16 RJ Longo and #17 Evan DeMarco chase during the Eagles 18-7 win on May 9.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin