MILFORD — Coming off playing their biggest rival a round earlier than expected due to the seeding, the Darien girls lacrosse team admittedly had its guard up against a letdown coming into today’s Class L championship.
Throw in that it has been weeks since the Blue Wave had been pressured to perform, and in Wilton they were facing a hot intraconference opponent familiar with their skill sets, and there were a confluence of events that saw them hanging on to a 12-10 lead in the final minutes at Jonathan Law High School.
Katie Ramsey then won a critical draw for Darien, which got the ball back after a turnover, resulting in Maddie Joyce’s last-second goal that secured a hard-fought 13-10 win for the team’s fifth straight state title.
“They did what they had to do when they had to do it,” Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. “I don’t think they really took time to enjoy their lead and then we got into a panic situation and then everything started cascading. Wilton had a great second half. I didn’t think our defense played particularly well all game.”
The Blue Wave (20-3) had a seemingly safe 10-4 halftime lead, but the Warriors responded with five of the next six goals, making for a tense finish. Darien, which was coming off a 20-10 win over New Canaan, was forced to display its mettle.
“It’s hard to keep focus, especially after having such a big semifinal win when we went into that game as if it was a final, so coming into this game it was hard to keep the focus,” said Darien captain Emma Lesko. “I can tell we came out flat and that’s why I think we had some disappointing moments and kept the score a little closer than we should have, but in the end when we played as a team we pulled out the victory, which was all we needed to do.”
Chrissy Fiore and Ashley Humphrey each scored 3 goals to pace the Blue Wave. Ramsey and Emma Jaques added 2 apiece.
“We came out in the first half and Katie Ramsey and Chrissie Fiore did a good job dominating on the draw,” Jaques said. “In the second half we struggled in the circle but the fact we were able to get the ball and keep the lead just shows the kind of heart that we had. Even though we weren’t getting the ball off the circle, we were finding other ways to get the ball.”
Rebecca Wistreich and Julia Bonnist, who spearheaded the rally, finished with 4 and 3 goals, respectively, for the Warriors, who lost to Darien during the regular season, 15-2.
Wilton (13-7), which rebounded from a first-round loss in the FCIAC Tournament, made its big jump when Bonnist scored twice and Wistreich once in a span of two minutes to make the score 11-9.
“We’ve been battling all season, and the way they stepped up today and not just made it a game, but a couple of different possessions and the game goes the other way,” Wilton coach Meredith Meyran said. “Darien is awesome, it’s amazing to even compete with them and I think we pushed them today, and I’m really proud of it.”
Both teams made goaltender changes in the second half, and the Blue Wave’s Maggie Brooks and the Warriors’ Bridgette Wall, both sophomores, made big saves.
Lindley said her decision to replace Carly Schoudel, an All-FCIAC goaltender, was more to shake up her players.
“Pulling Carly, it wasn’t her per se, I was just getting someone fresh in there, wake up our defense and I have confidence in Maggie,” Lindley said. She’s a good goalie.”
Darien’s 10 seniors will graduate batting eight for eight in league and state finals.
“It’s amazing. This class really worked hard,” Lindley said. “I think they set the bar really really high for the underclassmen obviously. Eight championships is pretty cool. They’re going to find out when they go off to college pretty quickly that they miss winning. It’s just a product of Darien lacrosse.”
Added Lesko, “It’s so special to have won four FCIAC and four state titles. It’s not something you can take for granted but it’s so awesome to be here every year and I hope the freshmen learn the tradition and keep it going.”