Players and coaches have been in an altering state since the end of the spring season — and sports year. Saturday concluded a banner nine months for the FCIAC, with state titles won in baseball (Staples), softball (Trumbull), boys lacrosse (Darien, New Canaan) and girls lacrosse (Darien).
Perhaps there have been better years to cover the conference, but honestly none come to mind. The skill level was high, and broader-based. It is hard to remember a more likable class; the quality of person cleared the high bar of quality of athlete.
Before closing shop for a little break it is time for the not-really-obligatory year-in-review-that-isn’t-really-a-year-in-review column.
Rather than scan the site, the most lasting highlights are the ones you don’t have to look up. But out of curiosity I just set up the analytics to see which high school stories and games got the most page views. Topping the list was a profile this spring of New Canaan lacrosse player Campbell Armstrong. Next up, the Ridgefield-Wilton boys basketball final.
We will return to that one in a moment. It is sandwiched between spring and fall season teams that, for both similar and contrasting reasons, have endured.
Actually, endured is the wrong word for the first, seeing that we are talking days, not weeks or months. No team was more balletic than the Darien boys lacrosse team. Because nearly every one of their games was a blowout, the Blue Wave afforded us scribes the chance to occasionally put the notebook down and admire the artistry.
I’ve watched Darien’s 10th goal in its state quarterfinal win over Greenwich several times, eight seconds in which goaltender Ryan Cornell makes a save and offers a clearing pass to Riley Stewart, who after a long run finds Logan McGovern in front for an over-the-shoulder goal.
There were many like it in Darien’s fast-paced transition arsenal, giving the impression the sport was being played on ice rather than turf. I spent this morning with Jeff Brameier taping next week’s podcast, and again never asked if this was his best team. I am guessing the answer would be a close second or maybe third — last year’s might have been the most talented — but certain elements were No. 1.
Speaking of which, that is the position the Blue Wave found themselves in this week after landing in the top spot of two national polls. As I opine in the podcast, I’m a poll skeptic; I vote in several state polls and had a hard enough time this year picking an FCIAC weekly top five in boys basketball and baseball — and I see all of them.
Is Darien better than No. 2 Landon (Maryland) or No. 3 Culver Academy (Indiana)? Nobody knows. Is there anyone who saw each of the three play?
More important is what that selection says about the Darien program and the respect it has earned on a national level. This year’s team penned an exclamation point to that status.
The Blue Wave players also excelled in the classroom and were humble in demeanor, common traits with the Ridgefield girls soccer team. It would be easy to say the best of fall involved the parallel Darien-New Canaan football paths, but that would be the case every year. The twin storyline has become like Seinfeld reruns: you know every word and you remain entertained.
Ridgefield was a familiar destination this year — and is well represented in this site’s analytics — and the girls soccer team, with nine returning starters, again won an FCIAC title and lost to Glastonbury in the state final.
The Tigers were a true representation of a town program — girls with a shared talent but different personalities and interests who when together formed a sisterhood. Part of what made this two-year run so special was not what they could do on the field but who they were off of it.
Ridgefield had to get by St. Joseph again to repeat as conference champion and outplayed Glastonbury for much of what became the Tomahawks’ 60th straight win and third successive state title.
There were fewer tears than might have been expected afterward. There was more pride in what had been won than lost, especially by the seven seniors who had spent nearly half their lives together on a soccer pitch.
It was just another element that made the Tigers’ so admirable.
We stay in Ridgefield and include its biggest rival for the most memorable game, the FCIAC boys basketball championship. For the record, the Tigers won their first league title with a 68-64 double-overtime win over a Wilton team that brought its community together for three months last winter.
It was hardly the best-played conference final, but for those outside the two towns that almost became the secondary story. Fairfield University was close to capacity, and hundreds of students from each school filled the bleachers well over an hour before tipoff.
In terms of atmosphere, only a Darien-New Canaan football game could equal it. Since the Turkey Bowl is an annual rite, it is hard to recall any other recent FCIAC game in any sport that could also be called an event.
Talking about the result, the Tigers’ Chris Longo said, “It’s unbelievable. It’s history.”
The same could be said of the entire sports year.