DARIEN — One more chance.
That’s what the Darien girls lacrosse team has wanted and what it will receive after the Wave powered past Cheshire 15-4 in the Class L quarterfinals Friday in Darien.
That chance is, of course, a fourth and final meeting with top-ranked New Canaan (19-0), despite the fact that second-ranked Darien (16-3) has been unable to solve the Rams in three meetings thus far.
No. 1 New Canaan took care of business on Friday night when it defeated third-ranked Wilton 12-9 in the quarterfinals, setting the stage for Darien-New Canaan, Round IV, in the semis on Tuesday.
While that shapes up to be a blockbuster, it’s clear Darien coach Lisa Lindley feels it’s a shame it is happen before the final.
“I’m always disappointed in the seeding,” Lindley said. “The seeding stinks. The CIAC has to decide are they going to seed these tournaments correctly or do what’s easy. Win-loss percentage across the board is easy. For (New Canaan and Darien) to meet in the semifinals — that’s the state championship right there.
“If I get in trouble for saying it, I’m only saying what everyone else thinks.”
In the meantime, the Wave took control of its game with Cheshire in the first half, building an 8-1 lead by halftime.
Sophomores Chloe Humphrey (four goals, two assists) and Ryan Hapgood (four goals) led the scoring.
Lindley said her players have been in the right frame of mind since the FCIAC loss.
“It’s psychologically tough, but I’m proud of them,” Lindley said. “They’ve rebounded pretty well and we’re at a good place. We’re being positive and the girls are understanding that a lot of things went wrong when we lost the game on Saturday.
“Hopefully we’ll be ready to play and ready to beat them.”
It was a tough end for Cheshire (12-6), a perennial SCC power which was playing without any of its five seniors, including top scorers Taylor Warburton and Raegan Bailey.
Cheshire’s senior prom is Friday, and Darien’s is Saturday, so according to Cheshire coach Dan Warburton, his school had requested a move to Sunday. That was turned down and the game was instead moved to the earlier start time on noon, Friday.
Still, Warburton said that start time would have made it difficult on the seniors, a group that includes his daughter Taylor, who had missed their proms due to the pandemic last spring.
“It made it really hard on our seniors and with everything that we lost this past year — they’ve lost enough,” Warburton said. “It was a hard decision, not a decision I ever thought I would make, but I told them I wanted them to go to their prom.”
The younger lineup showed some mettle, despite the lopsided final score.
Goalie Audrey Bronson collected 11 saves, Ava Matikowski had a goal and two assists and Lauren Samela. Sophia Surato and Ava Harris also scored. All five players are sophomores.
“Anybody who just looks at the scoreboard won’t know it, but we made Darien work today,” Warburton said. “We played hard, and I’m extremely proud of that.”
“I wanted them to walk out of here feeling good, and I think they can do that.”
‘A CLEAN SLATE’
Darien has lost its three games against New Canaan by a combined six goals, including an overtime game, 10-9, in Darien.
The Wave’s approach now is simple.
“It’s just a clean slate,” senior co-captain Nelle Kniffin said. “Obviously, the past couple of times we’ve played them, it’s been poor outcomes and we haven’t really played our best game. So I think going in, it’s acting like it’s a normal game, try and forget about the rivalry and just keep to what we know.”
“The team chemistry is mixing well,” senior co-captain Kate Bellissimo said. “We’ve been working hard in practice, trying to play in practice as we do in games, so that level of play has been raised.”
Cheshire had an emotional moment in the morning when its seniors came to the team bus to see their teammates off on the ride to Darien. The decision to have those players forgo the game so they could get ready for their prom was made by coach Warburton, but it wasn’t easy.
“This class is special to me because one of them is my daughter and I’ve watched this team since they were little,” Warburton said. “Basically what I said to them was I wanted them to go to prom, and if the last time they wore a Cheshire uniform was a last-second victory over a great team in Glastonbury (12-11 in the first round), that’s a heck of a last game.
“I love all my teams but obviously when I’ve watched this one grow up, it had a special meaning to me.”