Three-time state champs look to replace four All-Staters

All-Stater Jack Kilmartin returns in goal for St. Joseph.

All-Stater Jack Kilmartin returns in goal for St. Joseph.

CT Lacrosse / Contributed photo

St. Joseph coach Brendan Talbot didn’t sugar coat the challenge his team faces this season.

“We graduated a very special class, going through three state championship with that group,” he said. “Each played a role on varsity for three, some four years. We had three All-State players on offense last year (Preston Kral, Ryan Daly and Eric Burbank). The other three are back. We need guys to go from Robin to Batman. ‘I tell them: ‘Now you’re the guy. We are setting this up for you.’”

St. Joe won the Class S title from the 17th seed in 2021.

Talbot doesn’t want a repeat of the 8-7 regular season that placed his Cadets low on the seeding rung. The Cadets defeated No. 1 New Fairfield 8-7. Followed by wins over No. 8 Haddam-Killingworth and No. 4 St. Paul. They topped No 7 East Catholic for title. EC had knocked off No. 2 Bacon Academy.

“We knew New Fairfield was probably going to be undefeated going into playoffs last year,” said Talbot, in his sixth season. “We knew they were the best team in the SWC. We wanted to avoid the 16-17 matchup. The way it played out we were No. 17. We knew New Fairfield was the team we had to beat, whether it was round one or later. It was a great game.”

Tommy Kramer, Josh Newell and Johnny Karafa are team captains.

“Tommy is a senior who will anchor the defense. Josh started last year. It’s nice to have a lefty who can score. Johnny Karafa is a junior. We moved him from midfield to attack because we need guys who can score,” Talbot said.

“Jack Kilmartin will take faceoffs. He is our only returning All-State player. Jack is a year-round faceoff kid. He plays on a club team in the summer. He has no visions of grandeur when it comes to offense. Jack gets the ball and takes pride in his craft.”

Sophomore Alex Burbank and freshman Sean Archibald will play attack.

Junior Sam Rosa, senior Sean Callinan and sophomore James Corry lead the midfield.

Talbot said: “Sam as a sophomore was our Swiss Army knife guy, playing wing on faceoffs, playing some defense, staying on for some offense. Now he has taken next step to be a fulltime offensive player. Sean is a lefty and that balances the field a little bit. He climbed the ladder from fourth middie and will bring leadership. James is playing the best offensive lacrosse for us right now.”

Tyler Stiewing will be in goal.

“Stew is a star hockey goalie who came last year as a junior when we had two seniors splitting time. It was the first time he played lacrosse. Fast forward to playing at Ridgefield (April 5) under the lights. In the first quarter he had seven or eight saves against the No. 18 team in the country. A year ago, he hadn’t touched a lacrosse stick,” Talbot said.

“We lost All-Stater Jack Fearnley, but we have our most upperclassmen playing on defense. Tommy Kramer, Trevor Kellogg, Andrew Reynolds, a junior who started last year as a sophomore, and Ryan Rooney, a transfer from Immaculate. Freshman Jason Pagano is our starting long-stick middie. He showed up day one ready to play.”

St. Joseph has 45 players.

“That is our largest roster since I’ve been here,” Talbot said. “Everyone needs to have a role. We play Darien that has 125 kids in their program. We have got to get the best out of everybody. We can’t play them 10 on 10. They are going to play 20 kids. We need everyone to contribute something.

“We have 10 juniors, 12 sophomores and 18 freshmen. The cupboard isn’t bare. It’s that experience factor. We can’t rush the process, but we do need the lightbulb to go on sooner than later.”

Because St. Joseph made three straight trips to the Class S semifinals, by criteria it moves up to Class M.

Talbot said: “Now we have new challenges. Other new M teams are Wilton, Cheshire and Xavier. It is going to be an interesting tournament. There are a lot of good teams spread out. In past years, you may have been able to say this team will win L, this team M…In M this year Wilton is favorite, but if you play it five or six times you might get five or six different outcomes.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354