When St. Anthony’s met Chaminade in lacrosse for the third time on May 18, the script seemed simple enough. The Friars had won the two previous meetings, 5-4 and 4-3, so a close, low-scoring game was expected.
What followed was no ordinary flipped script. More like a total rewrite.
St. Anthony’s completed a rare three-game sweep of its arch rival with a startling 18-5 victory at the Mitchel Athletic Complex that not only secured a state Class AAA CHSAA championship, but also ended Chaminade’s three-year reign.
“I didn’t expect that,” St. Anthony’s coach Keith Wieczorek said. In fact, he wasn’t sure what to expect when the season started. “Going into the year we weren’t on any radar. People thought we’d be down.”
The Friars didn’t have a high-powered offense, but it did have two big-time scorers in Jared Nugent (27 goals, 38 assists) and T.J. Heagerty (45 goals, 12 assists), a superb faceoff artist in Kyle Gallagher and a solid defense anchored by goalie Tom Lingner.
“Jared was our pulse this year,” Wieczorek said. “He willed us through some games with his intensity and his energy. But all the kids bought in early and outworked and outperformed everyone else.”
The signs that this would be a special season were there early, as St. Anthony’s beat Fordham Prep, 13-3, and Greenwich, 16-6, to open the season. Then came a 5-4 victory over Chaminade, the preseason CHSAA favorite and a nationally-ranked team at the time.
The Friars disposed of last year’s state Class A public school champion Niskayuna, 16-6, and now they were on everyone’s radar. Despite its typically tough, national nonleague schedule, St. Anthony’s came within a couple of minutes of a perfect season, losing 7-5 to Delbarton and 8-7 to Darien and finished 14-2.
Lingner was outstanding in a 4-3 victory over Chaminade on May 10, but the Friars knew they would undo all their good work if they couldn’t close the deal by sweeping the Flyers in the finale. There was additional motivation. Chaminade had won last year’s state title with a 15-7 triumph that also was uncharacteristic of this rivalry that is considered one of the best in the country.
“It was terrible. It was an embarrassment,” Nugent said of that loss. Which made the complete reversal all the more sweet. Nugent scored four goals with four assists and Heagerty scored five goals as St. Anthony’s recaptured a crown it had worn from 2009-12.
“It was a complete team effort. They kept getting better and better,” Wieczorek said. “This was as satisfying a year as I’ve had.”