DARIEN — The Darien boys lacrosse team on Tuesday will have completed one of the best regular seasons in FCIAC history. In a year when there has never been four teams playing at such a high level — maybe in any sport, at any time — it is all the more remarkable given the quality of competition.
Saturday’s hard-fought 5-4 win at Ridgefield gave the Blue Wave (15-0) a sweep of the other members of what we will call the Fab Four — including a one-goal overtime win over New Canaan and a decisive victory over Greenwich.
Non-league wins have come against St. Anthony’s, Yorktown, Manhasset and Niskayuna.
It is a mixed blessing. Darien coach Jeff Brameier realizes the status of that accomplishment rises exponentially if his team can run the table and sweep league and state titles. Without at least one, it becomes a nice footnote.
“Whenever you win the regular season it’s nice, but it’s all about the playoffs,” Brameier said. “We figure we’re going to see one of those top teams in the semis and in the finals if we make it.”
The Blue Wave have earned the right to enter the FCIAC Tournament, which begins next Saturday, as the team to beat. But the margin between them and the other contenders is hardly a chasm. And several Ridgefield players walked off the field from the handshake line already talking about the visions of a rematch dancing in their heads.
“It’s not even a little bull’s-eye,” said Darien’s Sam Meyjes, part of a defensive unit that was outstanding against an opponent that prides itself on goal prevention. “We’ve felt the bull’s-eye all season, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger to play with. But at the same time, with the commitment our guys have to the game, I think we’re always going to rise to the challenge.”
John Reed scored twice for the Blue Wave in the first 3 1/2 minutes, but Ridgefield (12-3) held them to just three goals the rest of the way with its hard-to-solve zone defense.
Peter Dearth answered the Darien goals in the first quarter, and the score remained that way until midway through the third quarter in what constituted a shootout: four goals in a span of 3:35.
Darien led going into the final quarter, 4-3, and Peter Lindley’s second score made it a two-goal margin. Dylan Maher made it 5-4 with 5:27 left, but the final quarter was a standoff between the goaltenders.
The Tigers’ Brendan Winne robbed Colin Minicus, and the Blue Wave’s Phil Huffard made two sensational saves, one on Maher and the second on Ryan Dunn with just 90 seconds remaining.
“Phil steps up every game,” Brameier said. “If he’s not the best goalie in the state I don’t know who is. He’s on right now and he’s the quarterback of the defense.”
The loss for Ridgefield can best be described as disappointing but hardly a bad one. The Tigers played well, just not quite well enough. That has been a common trait of many of the Blue Wave’s opponents.
“We’re as a good as anybody and our job is to come out there and prove it when it counts,” Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey said. “A one-goal win for them is great, a one-goal loss for us stinks, but you can’t even count on a rematch. That semifinal game and the championship game are always insane. We have to be ready in two weeks.”
Meyjes admitted a possible Darien-Ridgefield II will be equally difficult.
“They have an outstanding defense,” Meyjes said. “As good as our offense is, it’s a hard thing to crack.”
What could be one of the best tournaments in league history is now only a week away.
“Referring to Brameier, Colsey said, “He gets to go home and relax and I get to go back to the film room and figure out how to get a few more goals.”
There will be little relaxation for Brameier, even though, as he said, “We’re just comfortable the way we’re playing.”
The Blue Wave are one win away from concluding a spectacular regular season.
That accomplishment then gets shelved, until the postseason begins and Darien sets out to ensure it becomes more than just a footnote to its legacy.