FCIAC

Darien’s Fourth Straight State Championship A Coronation For Senior Class

Darien's Chandler Kirby drives with the ball against Warde's Libby McKenna. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Darien’s Chandler Kirby drives with the ball against Warde’s Libby McKenna. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

MILFORD —When the final horn sounded, and the Darien girls lacrosse team had secured a fourth straight state championship following a 12-5 Class L final win over Fairfield Warde on Saturday morning at Jonathan Law High School, there was a celebration modest in nature, one that didn’t register on the Richter scale.

It was a reaction not made out of arrogance, though the Blue Wave were such a prohibitive favorite over the Mustangs, who have a great deal to be proud of after reaching their first title game.

Rather it was a sense of fulfillment for a team that sets the bar on the top rung, and a coronation in particular for five seniors who became the first in the program’s illustrious history to win four league and four state titles.

“It feels amazing, I am so excited,” said Susie Ropp, one of the quintet, who was the scoring leader with 4 goals. “I was really pumped up, I was really excited, we all really wanted to win this. All the seniors, we wanted to win it for all of us so we got all the goals quickly and got the lead.”

Thanks to Libby McKenna, who scored 4 goals, the Mustangs (14-6-1) overcame a quick 2-0 deficit and were as close as 4-2 in the first nine minutes before Darien close out the half with five successive goals, the last by Kaeleigh Morrill with no time left on the clock.

Warde's Libby McKenna takes a shot in the first half of the CIAC Class L championship game. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Warde’s Libby McKenna takes a shot in the first half of the CIAC Class L championship game. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Laura Murphy finished with three goals, and Chandler Kirby, who scored twice, said you take a different mindset when you are expected to win, seizing early momentum and not letting an opponent gain early confidence.

“That’s definitely a huge factor an with an underdog team, they’re going to give everything they have, they’re going to go for broke, they have nothing to lose,” Kirby said. “I think it was good we put a few away early.”

Darien (21-1-1), which did not lose out of state, has now won eight straight times in CIAC championship games after dropping its first two appearances. Warde twice got within five goals in the second half, but try as it did could not create any drama. It was not for lack of effort.

“First half I thought we did what we wanted to do, jump up on them and convert all our shots,” Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. “Second half we had a little bit of difficulty with the draw so we didn’t have as much possession. It didn’t hurt us because we had such a lead. It wasn’t our greatest game of the year, no, but we played well enough to win. We did what we had to do and we were fortunate. We have a deep bench.”

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Lindley had special praise for Carly Schoudel, who finished with eight saves. The question mark before the season was the goaltender position for Darien, and Schoudel turned it into an asset, earning All-Conference honors.

Coach Lisa Lindley and the Darien players celebrate a fourth straight state title. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Coach Lisa Lindley and the Darien players celebrate a fourth straight state title. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

But this was really a day for Kirby, Ropp, Katie Cronin, Daphne Budd and Kaeliegh Morrill, the seniors who will graduate not knowing what it is like for a season to end without championship trophies. There has been a lot of discussion about whether this is the best senior class of athletes in school history. Much of it is stimulated on the boys side, but the girls lacrosse team’s four-year starters own a big patch of that quilt.

“They’ve been great,” Lindley said. “Obviously four states and four FCIACs is quite an accomplishment though; they should be really proud of themselves. They’re good girls in terms of there’s no drama. That’s huge as well.”

Photo Gallery: Darien-Warde Class L Girls Lacrosse Final

Kirby now heads to Michigan as one of Darien’s most decorated athletes.

“It’s just so awesome because we’ve been on the same rollercoaster for four years now and we’ve been playing together since 3rd grade,” Kirby said. It’s been years and years and it’s been great to do this together.”

Perhaps the Blue Wave’s postgame reaction masked what was going through their minds.

“It feels just as good as all the others,” Kirby said of her medal collection. “I’m so happy.”

Darien's Chandler Kirby poses with her 13th championship medal. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Darien’s Chandler Kirby poses with her 13th championship medal. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)