FCIAC

As Darien Nears State Title, Kirby Sets Sights On A 13th Championship Medal

Darien's Chandler Kirby carries the ball upfield during Thursday's game against Glastonbury. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Darien’s Chandler Kirby carries the ball upfield during Thursday’s game against Glastonbury. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

DARIEN — The past nine days have been a celebration of the Darien High School sports program. The Blue Wave won five FCIAC titles in four days last week — and on Thursday added a sixth when the boys golf team was crowned for the first time since 1998. The talk has since centered on the success of the seven seniors who have played on the football and boys lacrosse teams since their sophomore year, compiling a 98-6 overall record. This may be the best graduating class of accomplished athletes in school history.

But absent from the conversation is the most decorated member of all. Following a 17-6 quarterfinal decision over Glastonbury in Thursday’s Class L quarterfinals, the Darien girls lacrosse team moved within two games of its fourth straight title. And one of its captains, Chandler Kirby, is on the precipice of an amazing distinction for a two-sport athlete: she already has won eight league and four state championships.

“I’m so honored. It is because of my teammates and Lisa,” said Kirby, referring to coach Lisa Lindley. “It shows the depth of the program. The youth program is awesome here. It really prepares you for varsity once you get here.”

Kirby, Katie Cronin, Kaeleigh Morrill, Daphne Budd and Susie Ropp could finish 8-0 in the lacrosse title department with a semifinal win next week over Wilton, followed by a similar outcome in the final against either Greenwich or Fairfield Warde. Kirby, who is as outgoing and personable off the field as she is intense on it, has already won one state and four league titles playing for the school’s girls hockey team.

Darien goalie Carly Schoudel makes an outlet pass during a quarterfinal win over Glastonbury. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Darien goalie Carly Schoudel makes an outlet pass during a quarterfinal win over Glastonbury. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

“I don’t really know anything else,” Kirby said, humbly but with a smile. “I just want to go out and win and so do my teammates.”

Darien (19-1-1), the No. 1 seed, jumped on Glastonbury from the outset, winning the first three draws and scoring each time — the last by Kirby on a free position — in the first 2:46. The lead swelled to 12-2 by halftime as the Blue Wave showed no signs of complacency against an overmatched opponent.

“They came out and played hard,” Lindley said. “They won the draw, went hard to goal, built the lead and then we were able to sub a bit. I thought my defense played really well too. Played aggressive. Cronin especially was at another level today because they marked Chandler.”

Cronin and Laura Murphy scored four goals apiece. Kirby and Morrill added two each. Nine different players found the back of the net.

“That was our biggest gameplan, to take it to them from the get-go,” Kirby said. “If you let these teams hang around it can be a game. It was good that we stepped on them right away. We are starting to realize the state tournament is harder than we’re used to.”

Kirby started out with a greater focus on hockey, but that evened out as her Darien career advanced. Lindley said as Kirby spent more time developing her lacrosse skills, she realized a meteoric rise in her skill set.

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“What she brings is real leadership abilities obviously, but also her ability to think two or three plays ahead sets her apart from just the average high school athlete,” Lindley said. “She’s definitely the type of athlete who likes to be challenged. She wants to be that kid who during a big game is productive. She’s got the type of qualities you can’t coach. The kid either has it or doesn’t have it. All the kids respect her.”

Kirby said she has been playing hockey longer but it has become, by a slight margin, No. 2 on her preference list. It factored into her decision to play lacrosse in college, at Michigan.

“I was more intense with ice hockey and transitioned,” she said. “Lacrosse always been my favorite sport. I didn’t know which one I would want to play up until mid sophomore year. Hockey was more intense, even at the Division III level. There is more opportunity in lacrosse. A wider option of schools.”

Darien's Susie Ropp looks for a teammate to make a pass. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Darien’s Susie Ropp looks for a teammate to make a pass. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Kirby said she was excited to play next year with Catherine Granito, her opponent in both sports at New Canaan.

“It will be fun to be on the same side,” Kirby said.

Interestingly, Kirby said of her eight titles so far the first one is most special.

“Hockey my freshman year, beating New Canaan in state finals, because New Canaan crushed us in years past and during the season,” Kirby said.

With her career coming to an end, Kirby said it would be difficult not adding one final medal to her vast collection.

“I would not be happy, that’s for sure,” Kirby said. “We definitely have our eyes set on that goal.”