BURLINGTON – The end of the Berlin High boys lacrosse season came like that final day of vacation.
The Redcoats know a long winter awaits with the constant reminder that they were unable to qualify for the Class M tournament, but the sweet smell of a late May victory will serve as a refreshing finish as well as a building block for campaigns ahead.
The program continues to surge forward under the guidance of coach Scott Rossi, who has worked hard for a decade to gain Berlin a foothold among the growing number of lacrosse towns in central Connecticut.
He envisions a positive future after the Redcoats concluded their campaign with a scintillating 13-12 victory over tournament-bound Lewis Mills at Malerbo Field that ended with a hard swallow and a wipe of the brow.
“We’re taking steps in the right direction,” Rossi said. “I think now what we really need to do is improve these kids’ lacrosse IQ and that it’s not an individual game with just a lot of dodging and good stickwork. To win at the varsity level it has to be a complete team effort.”
The seniors went out on a high note, led by jitterbugging attackman Nick Mangiafico, who tallied five goals and assisted on another.
Greg Buck, headed for a college career at Albertus Magnus, notched a goal and an assist. Long-stick midfielder Tyler Bouchard made some key defensive plays. Wojtek Zak, Jordan Kinney, Mason Paul and Jey Soucy also finished out their scholastic careers.
Replacing the scoring punch that the lightning-and-thunder combination of Mangiafico and Buck provided will be the primary concern as the program advances. Juniors Jordan Kradas (3 goals, 3 assists), goalie Matt Cote (8 saves), attackman Ben Tomascak (3 goals, assist), midfielder Luc Bolduc and defenders Anthony Duong and Sean Pollack will form the core for 2014.
“We’re definitely looking for some guys who can step up and finish for us,” Rossi said. “We have some guys on this team who have the potential. They just lack the confidence and experience right now.”
Bolduc is expected to be among the leaders.
“We’ve taken a good step forward,” Bolduc said, after the win over Mills. “This is only our second year. We had four wins last year. Now we have six (6-10). We have a lot of juniors coming back and I think we’re going to do good.”
WHEW! The Redcoats rode a dominating third quarter to gain the necessary edge against Lewis Mills, which cruised through the Western Connecticut Lacrosse League unscathed in 10 games but went 1-5 against outside challenges.
Trailing by two at the half, Berlin used three goals by Mangiafico and two by Kradas to take a 10-8 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“[Kradas has] really developed,” Rossi said. “He came on late to the varsity program last year. He’s been a starter all season. He’s still developing as an aggressive attacker and goal-scorer, but there’s no one better as a set-up man for us.”
Buck’s goal with 8:30 remaining gave the Redcoats an 11-8 lead but the Spartans, in need of a win to gain a home-field advantage in the first round of the Class S tournament, knotted the game at 12 with 2:16 to go.
Bouchard nimbly picked up a ball at midfield to ignite the game-winning attack. A centering pass from Kradas to Tomascak restored the one-goal lead with 1:23 left.
With 10 seconds left, Mills was in a desperate way. Possessing behind their own goal, the Spartans elected to go over the top with long-stick midfielder Patrick Keegan supplying the shot. The ball one-hopped Cote and he deflected it safely away like a catcher blocking a pitch in the dirt. The ball kicked to the corner as time ran out.
“The saves Matt comes up with are absolutely huge,” Rossi said. “Matt’ll make those save right on the crease, one-on-one. He never falls asleep on you and never gets caught out of position. This is a very steady goaltender.”
David Borovsky was the primary source of offense for the Spartans with three goals and four assists. Griffin Hayes had three goals.“This game wraps up our season pretty good,” Bolduc said. “It’s a team we beat last year but they definitely improved. We improved, too, though. I think it’s a good win to end the season on and we should be proud of that.”
Berlin 13, Lewis Mills 12
(May 20, At Malerbo Field, Burlington)
Berlin 3 1 6 3 – 13
Lewis Mills 4 2 2 4 – 12
Goals – Berlin: Nick Mangiafico 5; Jordan Kradas 3; Ben Tomascak 3; Greg Buck; Cam Criniti. Lewis Mills: Dave Borovsky 3; Griffin Hayes 3; Connor Hall 2; Matthew Borovy; Cameron Fletcher, Trevor Watts.
Assists – Berlin: Kradas 3; Buck; Criniti; Mangiafico, Tomascak, Sean Pollock.
Saves – Berlin, Matt Cote 8; Lewis Mills, Jack Reitz 10.
Shots – Berlin, 38-27.
Records – Berlin 6-10; Lewis Mills 11-5.