NORWALK — It may not have been Warriors-Cavs, but for a girls lacrosse state semifinal the matchup was as good as it gets.
Darien vs. New Canaan. Two great, proud programs, both defending state champions that have combined for 10 state crowns in different divisions since meeting in the 2009 Division I final, were playing tonight for the first time in the Class L Tournament at Brien McMahon High School. And if that wasn’t enough, there isn’t a greater rivalry than this in the state.
Only one problem, though: this was the SEMI-final. After all the build-up and hoopla, the winner on Tuesday – Darien after its 20-10 victory — was going to have play another game.
“Since we won the FCIAC championship, every practice, every preparation has been for tonight,” Darien coach Lisa Lindley said.
“We,” added New Canaan coach Kristin Woods, “were doing the same thing.”
Both coaches were confident each team would get past its first two state games. And both were treating tonight’s game as if it was for the championship. But it was not.
The Blue Wave, who were led by Chrissie Fiore and Ashley Humphrey, earned a date in Saturday’s state Class L final at Law High School in Milford with their 12th straight win. Darien (19-3), the No. 4 seed, will face another FCIAC rival, Wilton, for the title. The Warriors (13-6), seeded 11th, advanced to the final with a 14-8 win over No. 2 Greenwich in the opening game.
The pursuit of a fifth consecutive state championship should be enough incentive for Darien to be at its best Saturday, but tonight’s semifinal certainly had the feel of a state final … at least until the Blue Wave pulled away.
“We’ve all been building up to this game,” said Fiore, who led the Blue Wave with six goals. “But we’re not worried about Saturday. The momentum from this game will carry us farther.”
Humphrey added four goals and two assists for Darien, while Emma Jaques had three goals and one assist. Kendall Wisinski and Anna Stein also scored twice for the Blue Wave, who never led by fewer than six after building an 11-3 lead late in the first half.
“The girls were clicking tonight,” Lindley said. “We controlled the faceoffs, had more possessions and capitalized early. I think we are the more talented team but it’s nice to see us play with confidence.”
After a relatively even opening 10 minutes in which Darien took a 3-2 lead, the Blue Wave dominated thereafter. That left some spectators counting to make sure the Blue Wave didn’t have too many players on the field. It certainly seemed that way.
“Darien is a great team; they beat us on all the 50-50 balls and executed on offense,” said Woods, whose team moved up from Class M this season. She has no regrets about that. “We want to play with the best.”
The Blue Wave scored eight of the next nine goals over a span of 8½ minutes after taking the 3-2 lead, behind Humphrey, who had four goals during the blitz. Karlie Bucci (four goals) and Braeden Dial (three goals) scored for the Rams before the half ended but the six-goal deficit felt like much more.
However, the Blue Wave did not allow the Rams to rally, unlike the first time the two teams met (an 11-10 Darien win in double overtime on April 29). Thanks to the performances by Humphrey, Fiore and others, this one didn’t live up to the hype as Darien rolled into the final. Darien beat Wilton, 15-2, in a regular-season game on May 4.
“It was kind of easy the first time we played but Wilton is a good team,” Fiore said. “We treated this game today as a rivalry game but we need to focus now and treat Saturday as just another game.”
Katie Ramsey, Nicole Humphrey and Katie Elders also scored for Darien and goalie Carly Schoudel had six saves.
Julia Ozimek, Lauren Bisceglia and Campbell Armstrong had one goal each for the Rams. New Canaan goalie Cameron Blair finished with six saves.
In tonight’s first game, the 11th-seeded Warriors (13-6) earned a berth in the Class L final by defeating the No. 2 Cardinals (15-5). Sophie Sudano led Wilton with four goals while Rebecca Wistreich had three goals and three assists. Elizabeth Armstrong and Margaret Smith each had three goals and one assist and Erika Bonnist had one goal and one assist. Warriors goalie Paige Brown had 12 saves.
For Greenwich, which lost to Wilton, 8-7, back on April 13, Paige Finneran and Genevieve DeWinter had three goals each. Erika Bloes and Maggie O’Gorman added one goal apiece. Greenwich goalie Sloane Loveless stopped six Wilton shots.