Lancers reach sec­ond semi­fi­nal in three years

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sports - By Michael Forn­abaio

FAIR­FIELD — With a stiff and frigid wind blow­ing across the field at Notre Dame- Fair­field on Satur­day af­ter­noon, team­work was go­ing to be para­mount to con­trol the CIAC Class S boys soc­cer quar­ter­fi­nals.

The host Lancers made it work, both with that wind in the first half and against it in the sec­ond, to reach their sec­ond semi­fi­nal in three years with a 3- 0 win over Cromwell.

“The kids are play­ing well,” Lancers coach Whitey Bu­dreckas said. “They started to re­al­ize that a team has to play as a team. They look much bet­ter. ( When) they play in­di­vid­u­ally, you’re never go­ing to win many games.”

CLASS S NOTRE DAME 3 CROMWELL 0

The ninth-seeded Lancers dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion time in the first half, grab­bing a lead with 4:58 left. Two late goals put it away in a lit­tle more even sec­ond half.

“We got beat by a bet­ter team. It’s that sim­ple,” said Cromwell coach Matt Ay­otte, whose 16th-seeded Pan­thers fin­ished 10-8-2.

“We played the No. 1 seed (Ly­man Memo­rial, a 2-1 Cromwell win on Thurs­day) our last game and played re­ally hard, played re­ally well. We didn’t have the same en­ergy to­day. You could see it. It’s a tough way to go out, but only one team gets to win at the end.”

That was ninth-seeded Notre Dame-Fair­field (124-4), which ad­vances to

face fourth-seeded Mor­gan (16-2-2) in Wed­nes­day’s semi­fi­nals at a site and time to be an­nounced. The Huskies beat 12th-seeded Can­ton 3-1 Satur­day morn­ing.

“It’s amaz­ing,” Notre Dame se­nior Sean Buzzee said.

“It’s do or die,” class­mate Con­nor Steer said.

Dy­lan Wade had a goal and an as­sist in the sec­ond half, set­ting up Ja­son Lopez in the box with 12:29 left off a turnover and putting a penalty kick into the topright cor­ner with 2:48 left to seal it.

De­spite the pos­ses­sion dis­par­ity, Cromwell might’ve had the best scor­ing chance of the first 35 min­utes af­ter the Pan­thers turned around a Lancers turnover near mid­field quickly. Notre Dame keeper Marcelo DeSouza leaped to his left to stop Cromwell’s Nate Sousa in the 14th minute.

The Lancers took the lead on Car­los Al­faro’s strike from above the top of the box. Cromwell keeper James Grodz­icki had nearly con­trolled the ball a mo­ment ear­lier, but a team­mate ran into him, and Al­faro in­ter­cepted the Pan­thers’ clear­ing at­tempt.

“(We kept) our com­po­sure af­ter scor­ing the first goal,” Lancers se­nior Kevin Mo­rataya said. “Usu­ally af­ter one we re­lax. Af­ter that, we just have to keep go­ing.”

Notre Dame out­shot Cromwell 8-2 in the first half. Bu­dreckas cred­ited the Lancers’ mid­field­ers for con­trol­ling play.

“They worked the ball up the field re­ally well. They found gaps to get us cor­ner kicks,” Wade said.

Notre Dame didn’t qual­ify for last year’s tour­na­ment, a year af­ter reach­ing the first semi­fi­nal in school his­tory, a 3-2 Old Say­brook win at West Haven.

Cromwell was look­ing to get back to the semi­fi­nals for the first time since 2014, a year af­ter the school won its fourth state ti­tle.

“It was a tough year. We had a se­nior class that was a lit­tle di­vided when we started. Some of them bought in, some didn’t,” Ay­otte said. “Over­all, we made it to here, so I guess it’s a suc­cess. It’s not what I’d like.”

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