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The North Branford boys’ lacrosse squad celebrates its first conference title after notching a 12-7 win versus Morgan in the Shoreline Conference Tournament championship game on May 23. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Tyler DiNapoli netted five goals to lead the North Branford boys’ lacrosse team to a 12-7 victory over Morgan in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final at the Indian River Complex in Clinton. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Junior captain Xavior Cognata turned aside 11 shots to help the T-Birds beat Morgan and bring the Shoreline Conference title home to North Branford for the first time. (Photo by Susan Lambert/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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For the first time in the history of the North Branford boys’ lacrosse program, the Thunderbirds can call themselves the Shoreline Conference champions. The 2nd-seeded T-Birds accomplished that feat when they defeated No. 1 seed Morgan by a 12-7 score in the Shoreline Conference Tournament final at the Indian River Complex on May 23.
North Branford had already made history by beating Old Lyme in the semifinals to make the Shoreline championship for the first time. Now, the T-Birds have their first conference title in their fifth season as a varsity squad.
“It was a big step for the program. Being a varsity program in our fifth year now, we had been to the Shoreline Tournament three times, and we were 0-3 so we had never made it to the finals,” Head Coach Dave Carpenter said. “It’s a great feeling for those seniors that lost as freshmen in the semis after going 12-4. There was a lot of excitement as the boys were jumping up and down.”
While the Indian River Complex was technically serving as a neutral site, the Huskies still got to play the Shoreline final on the same turf that they call their home. Coach Carpenter felt that his squad got a big boost from North Branford’s fan contingent that came out to watch both T-Birds’ lacrosse teams win conference titles that night.
“A huge factor was that the girls won and stuck around,” said Carpenter. “We had a student section able to match theirs and give us the energy and fire we needed to push and get the Shoreline championship.”
North Branford rallied from a three-goal deficit on its way to claiming the Shoreline crown. Sophomore Tyler DiNapoli scored five goals for the T-Birds in the win. Senior Dylan Martinik had three goals, while junior Peter Ablondi-Taylor scored a pair of goals. Seniors Nick Barrett and Jake Montanaro each had a goal, plus Barrett, Martinik, and juniors Nate Raymond and Attilio Avallone contributed one assist apiece. Junior captain Xavior Cognata made 11 saves in net to help keep the Morgan offense at bay.
The T-Birds beat Morgan for third time this year after having previously defeated the Huskies in the regular season. To get to the final, North Branford had to dispatch an Old Lyme squad that it lost to twice during regular-season play. North Branford got revenge against Old Lyme in the Shoreline semis by earning a 9-8 win versus the Wildcats.
“Last year, we beat Old Lyme twice in the regular season, but come playoff time, they knocked us out. This year, they beat us twice, and our motto is, ‘It’s tough to beat a time three times,’” Coach Carpenter said. “We beat Morgan twice in the regular season and, once again we knew it’s tough to beat a team three time, and we were on the other end of it. The kids just match up really well against Morgan.”
Still, this was North Branford’s first time playing on the big stage in the Shoreline Conference championship. Coach Carpenter sensed a few jitters among the T-Birds as they fell into a 5-2 deficit at the end of the first quarter.
“We were ready to play, but it was probably the most electric environment this team had to play in, as far as energy from the crowd,” said Carpenter. “We came out nervous.”
However, North Branford settled in during the second quarter and saw its offense explode for six goals to give the T-Birds an 8-6 advantage at halftime.
“We switched out of our man defense and into a zone, and it gave Morgan some fits,” Carpenter said. “That second quarter was the best we played all year.”
North Branford scored the only goal of the third quarter to bring a 9-6 lead into the fourth. The T-Birds outscored Morgan by a 3-1 margin during the final frame to solidify the victory.
“Our goal was to control the tempo, make them make bad decisions on offense, and possess the ball,” said Carpenter of his team’s second-half strategy. “The boys were able to execute that and really earned it.”
After competing in Shorelines, North Branford took a 19-3 defeat versus St. Joseph in the first round of the Class S State Tournament on May 29. The Thunderbirds, who were the No. 9 seed, finished the year with an overall mark of 12-7 after losing to 8th-seeded St. Joseph.
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