DARIEN — One of a sportswriter’s pet peeves is team photos after championships. The winners rightfully want to revel in their accomplishment. We want to get the necessary quotes to make a deadline.
Which brings us to the Darien boys lacrosse team, which has learned with much conditioning to streamline the practice. Win the title, get the trophy, in and out in 10 minutes, which was the case tonight after a resounding 20-4 victory over Ridgefield for the Blue Wave’s fourth straight FCIAC championship and 50th successive win.
Kick in the game being pushed up an hour because of the inclement weather and some of you are reading these words a little earlier than otherwise with just your average champion.
Actually, the postgame efficiency was another way to measure a program that has been off the charts. And with an early decisive lead, the Blue Wave had plenty of time to arrange how many photos would be taken, who would be in which ones and proper placement, short guys in the front.
“We know the routine and have a situation here where the kids are used to it,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “And I’ve also learned to relax. Let them have fun. I remember we used to treat this game like it wasn’t a big game, if you didn’t win states it didn’t matter, but I remember one year we didn’t win states but we won FCIAC and we didn’t get to celebrate, and you have to win FCIACs, usually, to win No. 1 in the state.”
Part one accomplished, and it would take a seismic upset for the Blue Wave (19-0) not to take care of the second step, especially considering the ease with which they sailed through the league playoffs. They defeated the Tigers and Wilton — contenders for being the state’s next-best teams — by a combined 37-7 margin.
“It all starts in practice,” said Finlay Collins, whose first of two goals was the prettiest of the night. “Most of the kids on the team would say that some of our toughest challenges come in practice. Going against our first defense, there are so many great defenders out there, and I am sure they feel the same way about our offense. We just work hard to get better every day and so far we’ve been successful at that.”
Four more wins and the Blue Wave, currently ranked in one poll as the top team in the country, would have to maintain that status.
“Obviously it’s in the back of our minds but we don’t talk about it,” Collins said. “Our goal is really to win all the titles and finish the season the way we want to.”
But that mythical title is still a holy grail to use as motivation, not that this team has for a second displayed any signs of complacency, overconfidence or any other negative factor that could hinder its performance. If anything, a great game spurs wanting to play even better, as was the case the last three days as the Blue Wave ended their wins in running time.
“We have our goals but no goal is reached if we don’t go undefeated,” Brameier said. “It’s been pressure-packed since we started this season because nobody wanted to end the streak, and once we got the No. 1 rating in one of the polls the pressure was just right there, but they’ve risen to the challenge and we’ve got some great challenges coming in the state. Nothing is a cakewalk, but the way we’ve played the last couple days against Wilton and Ridgefield, two of the best teams in the state, says that these guys are cranking on all cylinders.”
It was hard not to feel a little sorry for the Tigers, who have steadily improved throughout the season and, no matter what happens going forward, should be remembered for navigating through a group of comparable teams to reach the final, and not just on what happened tonight.
For the record, Logan McGoven scored 6 first-half goals tonight for Darien. Kevin Lindley finished with 4 goals and 3 assists, and it was his first score that qualified as a turning point in a game so one-sided.
Ridgefield goaltender Dan Parson, who stopped 10 shots and played very well, especially early, came up with three big saves at the outset. Dawson Muller scored for the Tigers and the score was tied at 1-1 with 8:09 left in the first quarter.
Tanner Strub won the ensuing faceoff and six seconds later Kevin Lindley returned the Blue Wave into the lead. It had to be disheartening for a decided underdog that needed some early momentum.
Strub was 18 for 28 on faceoffs.
“That speaks to where we’ve improved this year,” Brameier said. “Tanner Strub has had a tremendous junior season and played a major role in the faceoff X. He had a good game today. Wing play is just outstanding. We just got a lot more possessions out of faceoffs than we did last year. If we can go 50-50 on faceoffs with this team, we’re in good shape.”
Collins offered a similar breakdown.
“It all starts with Tanner winning those first couple faceoffs and we were able to roll the rest of the way,” Collins said. “The defense was incredible and we were able to get the ball up in transition and capitalize.”
Yes, the defense. The four goals allowed were likely eclipsed by the 20 scored, but not by the people who voted defender Arden Cohen the most valuable player. The addition of a transfer who is one of the country’s best players almost seemed like an unnecessary added advantage, but has helped make the Blue Wave both the FCIAC’s best and most entertaining team — in any sport — this school year.
“It’s been great this year to be part of such a strong team,” Cohen said. “I thank Coach and all the boys too. It’s been awesome.”
Cohen seemed to adapt after the game quickly to which picture he was supposed to be included in and which to skip as darkness and a chilled rain fell on the Brien McMahon field.
If not, he has two more weeks to practice.