AVON, May 28 – The Avon High boys lacrosse team certainly didn’t enter the Class M state tournament on a roll. The Falcons had lost five straight games and six of their last seven contests.
Some of the defeats have come at the hands of some outstanding opponents such as No. 5 Simsbury, Xavier, which finished the season with 12 wins and Somers and East Catholic, the No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, ranked teams in the Class S tournament.
On Friday night, Avon High had their prom – and few students that attend the prom get to bed on time. And on Saturday afternoon, the Falcons hosted their Class M tournament opener against No. 17 Bethel in sweltering 90 degree temperatures at Buckingham Field.
Yet, No. 16 Avon didn’t wilt in the bright sunshine, heat and humidity. The Falcons scored the first four goals of the game and led by as many as six as they advanced to the second round of the Class M tournament with a 13-9 victory over Bethel.
Freshman Will Avery had a career-high four goals and an assist while seniors Brendan Brown and Dan Magrini had two goals each. Senior goalie Drew Duarte made nine saves in net including some key stops in the fourth quarter to keep surging Bethel at bay.
“This is a shoutout to our seniors,” Avon coach Jeff Lombardo said. “It is a matter of senior experience. To drop five straight games and then show up like this is impressive.”
Avon (8-9, 0-5 CCC Central) took an early 4-0 lead, scoring four goals in a span of 1:44. Avery had two goals in nine seconds while Luke Davey and Magrini had the other two scores. “The transition goals were pretty effective,” Lombardo said.
Avon led 5-1 at halftime and extended to 6-1 early in the third period on a goal from Brendan Brown. But Bethel, which beat the Falcons by one goal in April, refused to yield, scoring three consecutive goals and to cut the lead to two, 6-4.
The Falcons pushed the lead back to three on a goal from Chase Gordon but Bethel’s David DelPalma scored his only goal with three seconds left in the third quarter to cut the lead to two, 7-5.
Two long runs helped solidify Avon’s control of the game. Avon senior defender Luke Meaney forced a turnover, scooped up the ball and took off down field. He didn’t stop until he was celebrating after scoring with 10:56 left in the game for an 8-5 lead.
About three minutes later, Meaney forced another Bethel turnover. This time, it was junior Jack Jones who scooped up the ball and took off for the Bethel goal. Jones scored with 6:58 remaining to extend the Avon lead to four, 9-5.
Avery scored on a power play and Magrini scored with 5:28 left in the game to give the Falcons a six-goal lead, 11-5. Bethel cut it to three, 11-8 with a sharp catch and release goal from Jared Pianik with 2:49 left but that is as close as Bethel would get.
“On the defensive end, we played well,” Lombardo said.
Avon’s next task is a bit intimidating. The Falcons will travel to New Canaan on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., to face the defending Class M champion Rams, who were ranked No. 2 in the latest state lacrosse poll. The Rams (15-3) lost to No. 1 Darien in the recent FCIAC Tournament championship game.
“There is pleasure in the fact that we’re still playing,” Lombardo said. “There is pride that you’re playing the best team in Class M. You want to be out there on that field. It’s better than packing up for the year.”
NOTES: It was the second straight year that Avon eliminated Bethel in the state tournament. The Falcons had a 10-9 victory in 2015 in the first round of the tournament over Bethel.
Avon 13, Bethel 9
Bethel (7-11) 0 1 4 4 — 9
Avon (8-9) 4 1 2 6 — 13
Goals: Will Avery (A) 4, Brendan Brown (A) 2, Dan Magrini (A) 2, Luke Davey (A), Chase Gordon (A), Quinn Haines (A), Luke Meaney (A), Jack Jones (A), Mark Weiss (B) 3, Jared Pianik (B) 2, Brad Haggerty (B) 2, David DePalma (B), Jack Whalen (B); Assists – Gordon (A), Haines (A), Magrini (A), Alex Spivak (A), Meaney (A), Avery (A), Weiss (B), Art Basso (B), Jack Kelly (B), DePalma (B) 4; Saves – Drew Duarte (A) 9; Jake Craybas (B) 9