CHESHIRE — Wilton’s boys lacrosse team was filing off the bus at Cheshire when the players and coaches learned Fairfield Prep had taken out Darien on their side of the bracket. And coach Steve Pearsall wasn’t quite sure what kind of effect it would have on his club.
With a disappointing FCIAC playoff exit still fresh in his mind, Pearsall hoped his kids would keep focused on the task of beating Cheshire, another dangerous SCC team, rather than getting caught looking ahead.
Wilton assuaged Pearsall’s concerns right quick.
Led by sophomore Sepencer Liston’s strong performance on faceoffs, Wilton blasted off to a five-goal lead and ultimately advanced with a 12-8 victory over Cheshire in the Class L semifinals at the Maclary Complex Saturday evening.
“I’m glad we did get off to a fast start,” Pearsall said. “I was a little worried (the Darien result) would take the focus off our game. I don’t know if it gave us more energy, but we certainly had a little more zip and more pep in our step today.”
Junior Ben Calabrese finished with four goals, while Sam Rosen and Grant Masterson had two goals and two assists apiece for the Warriors, who now get a rematch with suddenly potent Fairfield Prep — which cupended No. 1 Darien 14-10 — in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Liston won 18 of 23 faceoffs, beginning with five straight to start the game as Wilton took a 5-0 lead after the first quarter. Wilton’s lead grew to as much as seven in the third quarter as goaltender Colin Lenskold made five of his nine saves to keep Cheshire in the rearview mirror.
“Spencer just kept winning faceoffs, which was really nice, and Colin was really locking down their offense,” Calabrese said. When our defense is locking down and our offense is scoring, we’re tough to stop.”
Charles Kurtz and Brian Bouwman scored a pair of goals and an assist, apiece, and Cheshire scored five goals in the fourth quarter to make the outcome cosmetically better. But it was still a disappointing outcome for first-year coach Mike Devine.
“We’re bummed about it, but I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” he said. “We’re trending in the right direction in improving Cheshire lacrosse.
“We got into a hole early and, they were sliding early to us. No 32 (Wilton defenseman and Notre Dame commit Jake Sommer) is a beast. He’s going to an ACC school for a reason.”
Wilton beat Fairfield Prep 8-6 in the regular season finale on their home turf at Fujitani Field. Now they’ll get to play this semifinal showdown back on their home turf as the No. 5 seed.
“We’re definitely very excited,” Calabrese said. “But knowing that they came off a huge win, we know we’re going to have to prepare a lot more and lock down some of their big players.”
Wilton has spent the state playoffs shaking of an all-around Jekyll and Hyde performance in the FCIAC playoffs. After a thrilling, OT victory over New Canaan in the quarterfinals, the Warriors promptly laid an egg in a 16-2 mercy-ruled loss to Staples.
“We had to own it and realize we played our worst game of the season,” Pearsall said “It happens. We really wanted them to not get down on our situation, especially with the second season coming up, keep the positive and flush that game and move on.
“They’re a great team,” Pearsall said of Prep. “They have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent and senior leadership. That’s a great combination. We’re confident, but we’re coming in knowing we having to prove ourselves again.”
Wilton 12, Cheshire 8
WILTON 5 2 3 2 — 12
CHESHIRE 0 2 1 5 — 8
W–Ben Calabrese 4g, Sam Rosen 2g, 2a; Grant Masterson 2g, 2a; Josh White 1g, 1a; Will Hughes 1g, 1a; Charlie Rath 1g, 1a; Jack Rosen 1g; Spencer Liston 1a; C–Charles Kurtz 2g, 1a; Brian Bouwman 2g, 1a; PJ Cass 2g, Jason Raba 1g, Matt Jeffert 1g.
Shots: W–24; C–15; Goalies: Colin Lenskold (9 saves); C–Adam Vernon (12 saves); Faceoffs: W–Spencer Liston 18; C–Aidan Gaudet 5;
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