MILFORD — Give Lisa Lindley four days to gameplan for a single opponent and the veteran coach will usually come up with a sure-fire way to win.
The fourth-seeded New Canaan Rams found that out the hard way this afternoon at Jonathan Law Field as the second-seeded Blue Wave turned a dominant defensive performance into a 12-6 win in the CIAC Class L girls lacrosse championship game.
It was Darien’s sixth state title in seven seasons and 10th over all.
“You know what? Because we lost last year and didn’t even make it to the finals, it’s pretty special to get back here and have a convincing win,” said Lindley, whose team fell to New Canaan in last year’s semifinals. “I thought our defense played outstanding today. That started it.”
Darien trailed New Canaan, 2-1, before silencing the Rams for the next 24-plus minutes and into the early moments of the second half.
During that same time span, the Blue Wave scored six straight goals to take control of the game by a 7-2 score.
“I think we need to give a lot of credit to our defense,” Humprey said. “They held them for a long time. It was a full team effort, but it started with our defense.”
With the defense — led by freshman goalie Shea Dolce, senior Eva Finn, Catherine Duggan, Kate Bellissimo and Nelle Kniffin — holding the Rams offense in check, Darien’s balanced offensive attack was building an insurmountable lead.
“I haven’t looked at the book, but there must have been seven different scorers,” said Lindley, who was spot on with her count. “That’s tough on a defense. It’s a tribute to our program and our philosophy. We don’t center around a single star. Everybody has a chance to contribute.”
Shea van den Broek and Ashley Humphrey scored three goals each for Darien.
Nicole Humprey added two for the Blue Wave, who finished the season 21-2. Katie Elders, Sarah Jaques and Maddie Joyce had a goal and two assists apiece in the victory, while Molly McGuckin had a solo goal and Jordan Vaught and Charlotte Wittstock were credited with assists.
“This one is obviously the most special,” van den Broek said. “For us seniors, this has been the best team ever, so to win in our last game is especially important for us, especially capping off the season with a big over New Canaan.”
The Rams didn’t go down all that easily, though.
New Canaan cut the 7-2 deficit to 7-4 with back-to-back goals and had some momentum midway through the second half.
Van den Broek, however, found Humphrey on a perfectly timed cut to the goal and Humphrey finished the shot to make it 8-4, starting a 3-0 Darien surge.
“Give them (New Canaan) credit. They tried to come back a few times, but those kind of goals were important to stifle them and get them frustrated,” Van den Broek said. “It was great for us.”
New Canaan would get no closer the rest of the way.
“You have to play a full 50 minutes,” Rams coach Kristin Woods said. “We just didn’t execute. We were only there for 25 minutes and you can’t play a half game.”
McKenna Harden scored two goals for New Canaan, which finished 18-5. Dillyn Patten, Kaleigh Harden, Lauren Bisceglia and Campbell Connors added single goals while Kendall Patten had an assist. Goalie Caroline O’Dea made five saves.
“Our offense just wasn’t clicking really well,” Woods said. “We weren’t executing. We had a lot of young kids out there and they always do a great job, but they needed to do a better job recognizing their opportunities.”
Four days of preparation had Darien ready for what the Rams would throw at them.
“I think the first few days of those practices we focused on getting our defense back together,” said Dolce, who made three saves. “We had been struggling with communication, so we focused on that a lot. Today we were just lock-down solid, and coach said we had to play lock-down defense if we want to win this game and that’s what we wanted.”