Waterford at its best during 9-3 win over Barlow in Class M boys' lacrosse quarters

Waterford — The final margin of victory made a loud statement about the state of the Waterford boys' lacrosse program.

It even surprised the Lancers, who expected to win Saturday's Class M quarterfinal but not as convincingly as 9-3 against a traditionally-strong Joel Barlow.

They've proven they belong on the Class M level after moving up this season from Class S, where they reached the 2017 final.

"Hopefully, people looked at this and say, 'oooh, didn't really expect that,' " coach Chris Landry said. "I think it's going to turn some heads a little bit. ... I expected us to be in this game, 100 percent. I don't know if I expected that sort of a performance.

"That's just a really great all-around performance. I'm really proud of my guys."

Second-seeded Waterford (16-4) draws No. 6 Hand, an 11-4 winner over No. 3 Weston, in the semifinals Wednesday at a site and time to be determined. Hand has been the Class M runner-up three straight seasons.

It would take a magnifying glass to find any major flaws in Waterford's impressive play on Saturday.

Waterford's smothering, disciplined defense contained and frustrated No. 10 Barlow, which went scoreless in the first quarter and had only one goal in the first half.

"Our defense was just stellar on ball," Landry said.

The defensive trio of senior Kevin Close, senior Mackenzie Czyzewski and junior Joseph Lillis protected goalie Cooper Alloway, who saw only a handful of shots on goal. The Falcons had few high percentage shots and struggled to connect on passes while under pressure.

"This was definitely our best defensive game," Close said. "Everyone was talking. The rotations were the best they've ever been and man-on-man we played great."

Thanks to their stingy defensive, the Lancers weren't hurt by a slow offensive start. They struggled to gain possession in a scoreless first quarter and Barlow dominated, taking seven shots, but had nothing to show for it.

Waterford felt good heading into the second quarter.

"You go a full quarter without scoring like that, that's rough on the offenses on both sides," Close said. "Low scoring games are always tough. It helped us. We were feeding off the energy."

Waterford seized control in the second quarter, scoring six times to take a 6-1 halftime lead.

Junior Caleb Holdridge opened the scoring, cutting across the middle and firing it past goalie Alec Wilson for an unassisted goal. Senior Logan Bowdish's laser increased the edge to 2-0.

A failed clearance — one of the few mistakes the Lancers made – led to Barlow's Danny Molinaro cutting the gap to 2-1.

But it was all Lancers after that.

Sophomore Kyle Jacobson scored four of the next five goals and senior Michael LaForte added one for a 7-1 advantage with about seven and a half minutes left in the third quarter.

A bone-jarring hit set up the possession for Jacobson's third-quarter tally. Junior Harrison Searle delivered a hard body check to a Barlow player near midfield to force a turnover. The Lancers scooped up the loose ball and Jacobson fought off a defender and scored from close range.

LaForte finished with two goals and an assist while Holdridge had a goal and two assists and junior Ryan Huta added a goal.

Landry believes his team's challenging schedule prepared them well for Class M tournament competition.

"We're battle-tested, playing teams like East Lyme, St. Joe's, East Catholic, Notre Dame-West Haven ... they're all good quality teams," Landry said. "We've never played Daniel Hand. They've been to three straight finals at the Class M tournament. They're going to be a hell of an opponent."

g.keefe@theday.com

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