DARIEN — The opening two rounds of the CIAC boys lacrosse tournaments are a test for the FCIAC’s elite programs, but not in terms of degree of difficulty. Coming off of a difficult conference playoff, the battle is too remain sharp against outclassed competition before getting to the semifinals and championship game, where familiar opponents often await for rematches.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon at Darien High School, where the third-seeded Blue Wave, coming off a 20-goal opening win against Amity, jumped out to a 12-0 halftime lead over New Milford and coasted to a 16-6 victory.
Darien (18-5), in a rarity, will face its third straight non-league opponent when it meets No. 2 Glastonbury in the Class L semifinals. It is the defending champion’s 27th Final Four appearance in the last 28 years.
Darien coach Jeff Brameier was disappointed by the play of his reserves in the second half, but not much else.
“I think the key thing is you want to be playing your best lacrosse at the end of the season as always,” Brameier said. “And if you don’t work you’re not going to beat them. It’s frustrating that in the second half you give the guys a chance to perform and they didn’t. Mentally I think we pulled the plug too early.”
Colin Minicus finished with three goals and two assists for Darien, while Kevin Lindley and Hudson Hamill each had two goals and two assists. Jack Book also scored twice.
If there was a constant, it was the continued lockdown play this season of Mark Evanchick. If there was a vote for Player of the Year, Evanchick would figure prominently in the discussion, though the guess is he might not win for one simple reason: his job as a defender is to prevent, not score, goals. And goal scorers win awards.
“The hard part is a Player of the Year always goes to an offensive guy because he’s written up in the paper, scoring five goals,” Brameier said. “(Evanchick) has dominated every game we’ve played with the exception of the first one against Ridgefield. He pretty much shut down everyone and that’s a huge advantage for our team.”
The Blue Wave rallied from a four-goal deficit in that first meeting with the Tigers for a 10-9 victory. Ridgefield star Simon Matheis scored four times in that game. In the rematch nine days ago in the FCIAC championship, Evanchick held Matheis without a point.
Matheis and Greenwich’s Decker Curran are both Under Armour All-Americans. With a semifinal win, Evanchick will be called to contain one of them again in the championship.
Asked the secret to his success, the low-key Evanchick said, “A lot of work in the offseason with these guys. A great job by Cornell. He’s saved my butt a bunch of times. Just getting a good feel with the goalie and the rest of the defense.”
Evanchick was referring to Ryan Cornell, the Blue Wave’s sophomore goaltender. Evanchick has served as a security blanket.
“It’s a great comfort to know that you have a kid like Mark standing in front of you,” Cornell said. “He barely gets beat and the times he does get beat, it’s usually outside of the box and it’s an easy shot for a goalie to save.”
Defensive excellence is not limited to the spring. Evanchick led the Blue Wave football team to an FCIAC title, with a staggering 25 sacks. Many have questioned why the University of Pennsylvania commit is not going to play football in college…until they watch him play lacrosse.
“There are a lot of outstanding attacks in the FCIAC,” Evanchick said. “Two are going to be playing in the Under Armour game. It’s a lot of film preparation to see what they’re used to doing and try to take it away. A lot of agility work. If they have a bigger guy you have to be quicker.”
It is a testament to just how dominant Evanchick is that he gets as much attention as he does at a position that usually goes unnoticed.
“It’s nice, but you want some of the credit to go to the rest of the defense,” Evanchick said. “It is the whole unit.”