WILTON — The Darien boys lacrosse team’s schedule could best be hyped as Must See Road Trip Saturday. Each weekend brings a difficult opponent that possesses a test for one of the nation’s top programs.
Tonight was their shortest weekend bus ride of the spring to date, down the Merritt to Wilton, currently the No. 3 team in the state, with an opening-day loss to New Canaan the lone blemish.
After the Warriors’ Joe Murtha struck early, the Blue Wave scored six straight times and were never threatened in a strategic 11-4 victory.
The Blue Wave (7-0, 4-0 FCIAC) took an 8-2 halftime lead but were shut out in the third quarter, which ended with Wilton’s Connor Drake scoring twice in the final minute to cut the deficit in half. Darien’s defense pitched the shutout for the final period.
“They made some adjustments and we had to adjust to what they did,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “A chess match a little bit, a little game of figuring out. We’re bound to see them again at some point, in FCIACs, states or both. It’s a good test and we knew it. It was a good battle.”
Kevin Lindley scored all four of his goals in the first half. And Finlay Collins was true with a pair of bullets 22 seconds apart in the second quarter, both the catalyst to demonstrating the depth on the Blue Wave’s attack and pleased his coach.
“Finlay came out with a couple of cannon shots,” Brameier said. “We have been waiting for him to unleash. It is like it was in football, it took a while and then he became the man and I’m waiting for him to become the man here and take over a game like he did in the first half. He’s hard to cover and they started to try and shut him off, and we’re going to see that. We’re going to see different teams trying to figure out how to get us out of our offensive rhythm.”
Darien’s defense handled the rest.
“We had a great week of practice defensively,” said goaltender Ryan Cornell, who finished with 9 saves. “I think we helped the offense improve a little bit. We really wanted this game. There was a lot of hype with this good young Wilton team. They have a strong offense and we did what we had to do.”
Darien spent the first three Saturdays of the season throughout New York, from Long Island to the suburbs of Albany. Next week will be an even shorter trip than tonight: at New Canaan in what is the most anticipated game of the regular season.
“Every Saturday is a test for us, we knew that coming into the season and we’re excited for our next Saturdays,” Cornell said.
Andrew Calabrese was sensational in goal for Wilton (4-2, 3-2), with 12 saves, and there were enough positives to keep coach John Wiseman optimistic about the next six weeks.
“You look at it as a tale of two halves really,” Wiseman said. “Some of the goals that they got were mental errors in terms of the defensive slips that we could have worked on, and a transition goal on a missed clear. Some came on failed possessions on our part and turnovers. There is a ton that we can take away. As much as I think Darien is a good team and I respect them, I’m not awestruck at all. I know we can play with them because the second half showed that. It is a matter of fine-tuning things.”