DARIEN — Perhaps it is natural the members of the Darien boys lacrosse team came into this season feeling they had something to prove. That might seem unnatural given the Blue Wave were coming off a No. 1 ranking in a national poll and riding a 54-game winning streak before the first faceoff six days ago.
But many of the players responsible for those achievements have moved on to the college level, and the Blue Wave entered this year with less experience than at any time in recent memory.
“I figured people doubted us losing a big senior class but we have a lot of people stepping up,” Hudson Pokorny, a junior attack, said.
If this first week is any indication, there is no need for unease and not as wide an opening for a line of contenders hoping to end the Blue Wave’s run of four straight league and state titles.
Playing their first home night game, against a nationally ranked team from the other side of the country, the Blue Wave overcame a slow start and scored eight straight goals to roll to a convincing 14-4 win over Torrey Pines of California.
“We’re definitely for real,” said Pokorny, who tied Brian Minicus for team scoring honors with 4 goals and 1 assist. “There were a lot of attackmen who were willing to give me the ball and I was able to put it into the net. We have a big target on our back and we understand that so we’re going to push ourselves every game. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.”
Darien improved to 3-0 and also has a win over Yorktown already on the resume. Coach Jeff Brameier had a tough choice in deciding if he was most pleased by his offense, defense or Tanner Strub’s dominance on faceoffs.
“As you can see we can put up points in a hurry, even against a very good goalie,” Brameier said. “Their defense was solid and we had answers. We’re not fine-tuned but we’re clicking pretty good for this early.”
Logan McGovern finished with 2 goals and 4 assists for the Blue Wave, which received scoring from seven different players.
“Honestly we didn’t know what to expect, we just know we need to play our game and if we played 100 percent the whole time we had a good feeling it would go our way,” said Sean Collins, who has been the biggest early revelation for Brameier.
Collins has taken over for Ryan Cornell, a three-year starter in goal. Brameier admitted the position, a long strength of the program, was his biggest concern.
“I wasn’t sure if he was the kind of goalie we’re used to having,” Brameier said. “If he plays like he played tonight I’m pretty comfortable.”
Collins was terrific, making 10 saves, including a couple of big ones early while his teammates were waiting to find their traction.
“The long poles played outstanding,” Collins said. “They really did a good job of putting me in a position to make saves. They made sure the offense for Torrey Pines didn’t get good shots inside, they made them take the long shots.”
Play was physical and both teams had trouble on offense in the early going. Blake Sommi scored for Darien with 6:58 left in the opening quarter and that was the extent of its output as Torrey Pines (8-1) held a 2-1 lead.
Pokorny finished off a feed from Minicus with 1:34 left, Strub scored nine seconds later and Minicus converted a pass from McGovern 31 seconds after that. Suddenly it was 4-2, and that lead swelled to five goals at halftime after the Blue Wave scored three times in just under four minutes in the second quarter.
“I think we just had to calm down,” Pokorny said. “Getting back to our game, slowing it down and putting it into the net.”
Torrey Pines was held scoreless for a span of about 27 1/2 minutes until Shayne Grant scored with 2:20 left in the third quarter. By that time it trailed, 9-3.
“After you get through the start of the game you settle in and just get to play,” Collins said. “We have such a big tradition here and we just knew we needed to step up, and I think we’ve done that so far.”
Brameier said while many of the names on the back of the jerseys may not yet be familiar, the composition of his roster has not deviated.
“It’s a great group,” Brameier said. “This is a balanced group. We’ve got two solid midlines, we’ve got three very good attack, all contributed tonight. Every one of our de played well and because of our middies, they’re all offense-defense, we don’t have to worry about anyone getting caught on defense. That’s an advantage for us and we clear the ball better and all that stuff. I’m happy with the result, we just have to keep moving forward.”
Also unchanged is the philosophy.
“We’ve been through it enough that they know what they’re replacing, they know what the tradition is, they know this is their year,” Brameier said. “They just have to make it happen.”
So is there still any reason for skepticism about the Blue Wave’s prospects?
Said Pokorny, “I think after this game the doubt is going to be a little less.”