Hand beats Waterford in Class M boys' lax semifinal
West Haven — The season ended for the Waterford boys’ lacrosse team just as it had last season — a tournament loss, albeit after they'd taken the program to new places.
The Lancers were bowled over by Hand 15-5 in Wednesday’s CIAC Class M semifinal at Ken Strong Stadium. The Tigers built an 8-2 first-half lead by winning every faceoff with the game being played almost the entire time on Waterford’s side of the field.
It was the first time the second-seeded Lancers (16-4) had made it to a Class M semifinal, though, one season after playing for the Class S title. They were playing a program which is headed to its fourth straight M final.
Years ago, the thought of Waterford playing — and beating — the likes of Barlow or St. Joseph would’ve been fodder for a laugh track.
“(Hand has) been in Class M and they’ve dominated for years,” Lancers senior Logan Bowdish said. “We’re just taking it one step at a time. This is a whole new experience for us. … It takes some getting used to.
“Most of the teams (in Class M), they’ve been here 20 years. We're 11 (years old). … It shows that we’re getting better each year, and that’s all you can ask for from a program. And I think we’re doing it right.”
Waterford never won a first-round state tournament game until last year and finished as Class S runner-up.
“I probably (just told them) 10 times how proud I am," Lancers coach Chris Landry said about his team.
The sixth-seeded Tigers (14-6) advanced to play top-seeded New Fairfield (21-0) in Saturday’s final. The South-West Conference champion Rebels routed No. 12 Notre Dame of West Haven 19-7 in the other semifinal.
Notre Dame, which thumped Eastern Connecticut Conference champion East Lyme in last Saturday’s quarterfinals (17-4).
Notre Dame, which beat Waterford in late April (9-6) in a non-conference game the Lancers scheduled to toughen themselves up for states.
That’s the kind of challenge Waterford faces as it continues to build its program. And so far, it’s moving forward.
“This senior class and what they’ve accomplished this year,” Landry said, “being told you have to go play in Class M (this season) and we still make it to the state semis, beating a traditional power like Barlow (9-3 in the quarterfinals), I don’t think anybody really would’ve thought that was in store for us. But the kids didn’t quit. They believed in who we are. They believed in the Lancers and (the name) Waterford across their chest, that that means something.
“As great as last year was going to the state finals, this was a special year because we challenged ourselves with the schedule, and we competed in every game.”
Sophomore Kyle Jacobson scored twice for the Lancers and senior Michael LaForte had a goal and an assist. Sophomore Mason LaForte and Bowdish scored, too.
Junior Tom Swank had four goals and three assists for Hand and classmate Jack Flanagan scored four times. Senior Mark Hartmann dominated on faceoffs, and Bowdish said that junior goaltender Griffin Fitzmaurice was among the best Waterford had seen.
“They’re an excellent team, and we needed to play a perfect game to beat them,” Landry said.
Bowdish said, “Despite the score, we did come together. We competed until the end of the whistle. We scored right at the end (with 1.7 seconds left in the game).
“I’m just proud of everyone because they gave it their all.”
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