NORWALK — When asked how she was feeling after Darien’s 11-10 win over Wilton for the FCIAC girls lacrosse championship, Blue Wave coach Lisa Lindley had a one-word answer:
Lindley’s exhaustion was justified as the Warriors gave Darien everything it could handle throughout the title game. Wilton held a 9-8 lead with less than 15 minutes left to play before the Blue Wave scored three straight goals on their way to clinching their seventh consecutive conference championship.
“That was a very hard game to win,” Lindley said. “Wilton was very good and it could have gone either way. I think our experience was the difference and we came up with some key faceoffs at the end.”
Wilton was buoyed by a tremendous individual performance from senior Paisley Eagan, who scored three goals with an assist. Eagan did a masterful job after being inserted in the draw circle, winning seven of 12 faceoffs to keep the Warriors in the game and forcing Darien to make several adjustments in and around the circle and on defense.
“She was killing us,” Lindley said. “I was having bad dreams of (former Wilton stars) Tegan Helms and Casey Pearsall because she reminds me of both of them, and I was like ‘I can’t take it anymore.’ ”
The Blue Wave began face-guarding Eagan in the second half, allowing just one goal to the senior midfielder. Darien co-captain Katie Ramsay, who had been held in check for most of the game, made her presence felt late in the match. The USC-bound senior took four of the final five draw controls to help the Blue Wave to a 3-1 run over the final 14:05 and capped off the night’s scoring with her first goal of the game, which proved to be the game-winner.
“I was just kind of waiting for it,” Ramsay said. “After I scored we were celebrating and you could just feel the emotion switch a little, thinking we had some wiggle room and that we got this.”
Darien goalie Maggie Brooks took home the game MVP with 10 saves while Wilton’s Paige Brown had six saves.
The Blue Wave got out to an electrifying start, scoring twice in the game’s first two minutes on goals by senior Emma Jaques and sophomore Maddie Joyce. After Wilton senior Julia Bonnist bounced in a shot to make it 2-1, Darien sophomore Ashley Humphrey countered with a score off her own rebound, putting the Wave up 3-1 with 20:51 left in the first half.
Eagan got Wilton back to within one, netting a free-position goal at the 19:21 mark. Darien countered four minutes later as Humphrey put home a feed from junior Charlotte Wittstock for her second goal of the game to give the Blue Wave a 4-2 lead with 15:10 remaining in the half.
Less than a minute later the Blue Wave extended their lead to a 5-2 as senior Christine Fiore rocketed a free position shot into the upper right corner of the goal, forcing Wilton to call a timeout to regroup.
The breather seemed to work as the Warriors outscored Darien 5-2 over the final 14 minutes of the half to pull even at 7-7 heading into the intermission.
Wilton continued to build momentum in the second half. Eagan stepped in front of a Darien pass for an interception and streaked down the field to score a spectacular coast-to-coast goal, giving the Warriors their first lead of the game, 8-7, with 23:24 left to play.
Fiore knotted things up at 8-8 with her second goal of the match before Wilton senior Eva Greco put the Warriors back up 9-8 with a goal at the 19:04 mark.
Shea Van den Broek tied the game at 9-9, as the Blue Wave junior took a perfect pass from Jaques and found the back of the net with 14:05 remaining.
Darien retook the lead as junior Nicole Humphrey scored unassisted to make it 10-9 with less than 10 minutes on the clock. Ramsay added the much-needed insurance goal to extend the Darien lead to 11-9 with 5:50 left.
Wilton answered as Greco scored her fourth goal of the game, pulling the Warriors to within 11-10.
Two yellow cards in the game’s waning moments proved costly for the Warriors. Darien was able to play keep-away over the final three minutes to escape Norwalk’s Testa Field with the title.
“We had four yellow cards in the second half and you’re definitely not going to be successful when Darien is a man-up for eight minutes,” Wilton coach Meredith Meyran said. “Next time around we have to be a little more disciplined. But I’m really proud of my girls. They really couldn’t have done anything else. They left it all out on the field.”
It seems inevitable that Darien and Wilton are on a collision course to meet again in the CIAC Class L playoffs. The top-seeded Blue Wave will next take on the winner of tomorrow’s Staples/Simsbury matchup, while No. 4 Wilton meets the winner of NFA/Shelton. Both teams could meet again in the semifinals.
“We’ll see them,” Lindley predicted. “They’re very talented and we’re going to have to play better the next time we see them.”