DARIEN — Ryan Cornell is the easiest member of the Darien boys lacrosse team to locate on the field. The Blue Wave’s goaltender always occupies the same area. Faceoff specialist Tanner Strub, by the nature of his role, is also easy to find.
Arden Cohen, if you have done your advance homework, is similarly not hard to spot. Just look for the most dangerous player on the opposing team, and Cohen is close by.
When Darien coach Jeff Brameier sets his gameplan, Cohen draws the same and most difficult assignment. Last week it was against New Canaan’s star midfielder, Ryan O’Connell. In today’s 10-3 win over Ridgefield, he helped hold Greg Gatto scoreless.
“So we obviously use the matchups with him,” Brameier said of Cohen, who transferred this year from The Gunnery, a boarding school upstate in the town of Washington, where he also played hockey. “He’s very versatile so he can cover a guy at midfield, he can cover a guy on attack. That helps, where you don’t have to feel the pressure to slide to the best kid.”
Cohen, who has given a verbal commitment to Notre Dame, in most rankings is considered one of the top 10 seniors in the nation. Darien, now 12-0, has given up just 58 goals, several at the end of games that had long been decided.
Cohen has been a major — but hardly the only — reason for this stifling defensive effort.
“He has great balance and great strength,” Brameier said. “He doesn’t look big but he’s a rock. He plays with a high motor and when balls are on the ground he has as good a long skill stick ability to get the ball off the carpet as we’ve seen. Because he has that hockey mentality.”
Cohen has filled the role played the previous two years by Mark Evanchick. Cornell is one of the nation’s top goaltenders, while Nick Percarpio, Quinn Fay, an All-State football player, and Jake Bieler, a part-time starter last year, have worked well with the short-stick, two-way middies.
Defenders often get overlooked, especially on a team with the type of dynamic attack that Darien possesses. Four different players scored two goals against Ridgefield, the prettiest a quick two-pass sequence that was started by Kevin Lindley, continued to Matt Meyjes and was finished off by Logan McGovern. That gave Darien a 7-0 halftime lead.
Brameier said unlike in the past, he thinks this defensive unit has received its due.
“I don’t think they’ve been overlooked this year,” Brameier said. “They have been standing on their toes.”
Saturday completed what the Blue Wave referred to as hell week. It really started seven days earlier against New Canaan, continued against Staples and peaked in Thursday’s 9-4 win over St. Atnhony’s (NY). It was one of the most complete efforts for Darien and a big stepping stone to what would be its ultimate accomplishment.
“We dominated,” Brameier said. “The same problem down there that we had here, a lot of scoring opportunities we didn’t capitalize on. They played with a high energy knowing that in reality it was like a national championship game because if we want to be No. 1 at the end of the year, you have to win that game. If you lost you had no chance to be No. 1. Now we’re back in Connecticut and it’s first about winning the FCIAC and then you take care of it in the states.”
Of Darien’s final four opponents, only Greenwich has a winning record. The postseason will bring a number of rematches, perhaps with New Canaan, the only team to come within three goals of the Blue Wave.
Cohen said the defense will be up to the task, and that he hopes for continued success because of the players surrounding him.
“It kind of takes the nerve off; if I slip up I have guys who are willing to slide and slide hard,” Cohen said. “Cornell is always talking, drive, drive, drive. That’s helped me out a lot. It starts with Cornell talking and Bieler talking and we try to lock down after that. Coach B taught me a bunch of new slide packages so it’s been a great situation.”