Girls Lacrosse

Preview: Darien, New Canaan Appear Headed For Showdown

Shea Dolce is back in goal calling the shots for the Darien defense. (Matt Dewkett)

Four teams have won the FCIAC girls lacrosse title since 1994 — Darien, Wilton, New Canaan and Greenwich — with the Blue Wave leading the charge with 18 conference championships to their ledger. Darien captured the FCIAC title from 2012-2019, but couldn’t contend for a ninth straight championship in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that high school sports are back in session, Darien’s determined to continue its championship legacy, but there will of course be challenges along the way in the ultra-competitive FCIAC.

New Canaan, Darien’s arch rival, is always a team to contend with and Wilton is usually in the hunt. Staples, Ridgefield and Greenwich also have the potential to make a strong showing in the conference.

Following a year without a season, Darien knows it must perform at its optimum level to achieve its lofty goals. But it was already dealt a major blow: sophomore attack Chloe Humphrey, ranked with the best players in the country in her class, will be sidelined for most of the season with a stress fracture in her back.

“For us to be successful this year, given that we have no out of state games, each player needs to challenge themselves to play at a higher level during practice,” said Darien coach Lisa Lindley, who has registered more than 400 career wins since she began her tenure in 1994. “They need to be prepared and able to execute when given a chance. The team is appreciative of the opportunity to play.”

The Favorite

Darien: The Blue Wave, who went undefeated against FCIAC opponents on its way to securing another conference title in 2019, possess a premier goalie in junior Shea Dolce, an All-FCIAC selection two seasons ago. 

Lindley expects juniors Ceci Stein and Molly McGuckin to help ignite the team offensively. Nelle Kniffin, a senior, leads an experienced midfield line that’s one of the Blue Wave’s main assets. 

On defense, senior Kate Bellissimo has been a steady force throughout her career. Darien, which beat New Canaan for the Class L championship in 2019, opens its season April 13 against visiting Brien McMahon. They will then visit Wilton (April 15), before hosting Ridgefield (April 19).

Hollis Mulry is back on the attack for New Canaan.

The Contenders

New Canaan: Coached by Kristin Woods, the Rams have advanced to the championship game of the FCIAC Tournament three of the last five seasons and have won five state championships since 2012. Sisters Kaleigh Harden, a senior (All-FCIAC in 2019) and McKenna Harden, a junior, return to what should be a highly productive midfield for the Rams.

Juniors Dillyn Patten and Hollis Mulry should present matchup problems for the opposition at attack, while junior Claire Mahoney brings consistency in goal. The Rams open their season on the road against Ludlowe on April 13. Their matchup with Darien is on April 22 at home.

Wilton: The Warriors, who were defeated by Darien in the semifinal-round of the Class L Tournament in 2019, last appeared in the FCIAC final in 2018. Wilton, which has claimed six FCIAC titles, the last of which came in 2011, have an emerging goalie in junior Amelia Hughes. 

The team is deep and talented at the midfield position, with seniors Kira Howard and Maureen Campbell returning. Howard also helps key the squad on faceoffs. Gwynn Sullivan, a junior, could spark the squad at midfield and attack.

Staples: The Wreckers, who were edged by Wilton in overtime in the 2019 Class L Tournament quarterfinals, had a breakout season two years ago, going 14-2 during the regular season. Staples, which is seeking its first appearance in the FCIAC title game, will rely upon senior Shira Parower (Second Team All-FCIAC in 2019) for scoring and leadership at attack.

Ridgefield: As coach Cece Berger noted, the team graduated a lot of players who competed on the 2019 team, which was edged by New Canaan in the Class L semifinals. The Tigers are counting on Mary Hage, Riley Peters and Faith Arnold to spark the attack.

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Greenwich: Tara Clough takes over as coach of the Cardinals, who are led by Grace Collier, Noey Johnson and Sophia Neitzell at midfield. Senior Delaney Roth returns at attack for Greenwich, which only has a handful of players with varsity experience. The Cardinals were supposed to open their season at Norwalk on April 13, but the team is currently in quarantine until April 19. Therefore, Greenwich’s schedule will be adjusted.

Shira Parower remains Staples’ top scoring threat. (Matt Dewkett)

20 Players To Watch

  • Kate Bellissimo, Darien
  • Maureen Campbell, Wilton
  • Izzy Casucci, St. Joseph
  • Callie Cirrilli, Fairfield Ludlowe
  • Grace Collier, Greenwich
  • Shea Dolce, Darien
  • Mary Hage, Ridgefield
  • Kaleigh Harden, New Canaan
  • McKenna Harden, New Canaan
  • Kira Howard, Wilton
  • Amelia Hughes, Wilton
  • Nelle Kniffin, Darien
  • Claire Mahoney, New Canaan
  • Molly McGuckin, Darien
  • Hollis Mulry, New Canaan
  • Shira Parower, Staples
  • Riley Peters, Ridgefield
  • Dillyn Patten, New Canaan
  • Ceci Stein, Darien
  • Gwynn Sullivan, Wilton

Lineups

Darien: A Molly McGuckin; A Ceci Stein; A Shannon Dahlquist; A Maggie Ramsay; MF Nelle Kniffen; MF Saddie Stafford; MF Colette Quinn; MF Ryan Hapgood; MF Kaci Benoit; D Sam Barlow; D Emily Darby; D Kate Bellisimo; D Maisie Stewart; D Lauren Blatney; G Shea Dolce

Fairfield Ludlowe: A Callie Cirilli; A Hannah Kleinbeck; A Campbell Eckert; A Jessica Finnerty; MF Anna Paulmann; MF Kaleigh Sommers; MF Quinlyn Shannehan; MF Coco Norman; D Ellen Kelly; D Sadie Bernstein; D Claire Davenport; D Sofia LaFalce; G Meredith Lay; G Kennedy Carr 

Greenwich: D MK Savio; D Keira Young; D Rylan Sepot; D Maddie Hoekman; MF Grace Collier, MF Noey Johnson, MF Sophia Neitzell; A Delaney Roth; A Cece Tauber; A Kaylie Kitselman; G Hailey Hires; G Daryl Furno; Kaitlin Kelly, Emma Abazzia, Emma Norton

New Canaan: A Dillyn Patten; A Olivia Lockhart; A Quinn McKiernan; A Hollis Mulry; A Emma Ognibene; MF Kaleigh Harden; MF McKenna Harden; MF Caitlin Tully; MF Jade Lowe; MF Marlee Smith; D Courtney O’Connell; D Emma Schuh; D Emma Caione; D Carolyn Baran; D Charlotte Gelhaus; D Anna Zoccolillo; G Shea Hobbs; G Claire Mahoney; 

Norwalk: MF Brinn Renwick; MF Sofia Imbrogno; MF Sara Spielman; G Carly Saunders; A Riley Propersi; A Rachael Boone; A/MF Claire McKinnon; A Laura Lovell; A Kaylie Karidis; D Cameron Monaco; D Casey Donnelly; D Emily Scott; D Sophia Taiyanides

Ridgefield: A Riley Peters; A Aerin Krys; A Kate Tebbe; A Mary Hage; MF Faith Arnold, Siovhan Moroney, Julia Carrozza; D Jacqueline Lehaney; D Kate Dowd; D Tishy Caccipaglia; D Harley Zins; G Isabella Crowley; G Sophie Desmarias

Staples: A Shira Parower; A Charlotte Barnes; A Lexie Moskovit; A McKenzie Didio; A Maddie Hill; MF Emma Ashe; MF Mia Didio; MF Sydelle Bernstein; MF Maya Reiner; MF Julia Blaney; D Julia DiConza; D Meghan Nealon; D Jess Leon, D Caroline Cooper; G Sara DiGiovanni, G Alice Anderson

St. Joseph: G  Samantha Miller; D Sydney Leifer; D Mia Geignetter; D Bella Molnar; D Casey Mayglothing; Ryan Camiglio; MF Olivia Badeaux; MF Isabelle Casucci; MF Maddigan Leifer; A Autumn Murphy; A Teagan Cavaliere; A Katie Miller; A Meghan Hoynes

Westhill: A Julia Cooney; A Sammy Fischer; A Ellie Donohue; A Eliza Auslander; MF Audra Hansen; MF Olivia Feliciano; MF Peyton Hacket; D Anna Hansen; D Ginamarie Melia; D Rebecca Bailey; D Courtney Hale; G Ava Feliciano

Wilton: D Cat Dineen, D Mo Campbell, D Hailey Smith, M Kira Howard, M Morgan Lebek, M Gwynn Sullivan, G Amelia Hughes, Emerson Pattillo, Molly Snow, Grace Williams, Lucy Corry, Ellie Coffey.

(Teams missing did not reply to repeated requests for information)