NORWALK — Two championships is a repeat, and three is, appropriately, a three-peat.
So what’s it called when a streak reaches eight girls lacrosse championships?
“Eight in a row,” Darien’s Ashley Humphrey said. “Wow, that’s crazy.”
“Crazy” or not, the Darien girls lacrosse team’s FCIAC dynasty kept rolling on Wednesday night at Testa Field in Norwalk, as the Wave played a nearly-perfect second half and defeated rival New Canaan 12-7 in the league final.
“They brought it in the second half,” said Darien coach Lisa Lindley, who has now led her team to 18 league crowns since 1995. “They were aggressive and that’s the type of play that I love. It’s really characteristic of Darien teams: Aggressive, run them over and come up with the ground ball.”
“This is pure exhilaration and pride in my teammates and my coaches,” Wave senior co-captain Katie Elders said. “We’ve been struggling to play a full 50 minutes but we really showed up to play today. New Canaan’s always been a tough game mentally and physically but we were able to push beyond that and play like ourselves today.”
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) May 23, 2019
For No. 2 New Canaan (15-4), it was a disappointing finish to the FCIAC season, as the Rams still have not won an FCIAC title since 1993 — the first year the league tournament was held.
New Canaan had three one-goal leads in the first half, but after they went ahead 5-4 with 3:51 to go before halftime, the Rams were held scoreless for more than 19 minutes.
“They had the ball more,” New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said. “We lost draw controls and draw controls are half the battle. If you don’t win the draws, you’re not going to get possession. We didn’t possess well and when we had the ball, we made poor decisions and turned the ball over. That’s not the recipe for success.”
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) May 22, 2019
The Wave received a remarkable performance from the defense and freshman goalie Shea Dolce, who collected eight saves and received MVP honors.
“When I made the decision to start her, which was hard because she’s a freshman taking a senior position, starting her was getting her prepped and ready for this exact moment,” Lindley said. “She’s had some big games and we’ve played some big teams.”
Eva Finn, Catie Duggan, Charlotte Wittstock and Elders also helped to shut down the Rams’ attack, as the defense forced several turnovers and never let New Canaan settle in during the second half.
“On defense, we’ve worked on playing like a unit, playing aggressive and communicating,” Elders said. “It’s really easy to sit back when they have the ball, but the adrenalin rush of playing New Canaan in the FCIAC final, really helped us be aggressive on D and cause those turnovers.”
Darien’s offense was led by Humphrey, who had a hat trick and two assists, while Sarah Jaques, Shea van den Broek, and Jordan Vaught each scored twice.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) May 23, 2019
Jane Charlton scored twice for New Canaan, with McKenna Harden, Dillyn Patten, Campbell Connors, Kaleigh Harden and Lauren Bisceglia each scoring once.
The score was tied at 5-5 at halftime when Darien went ahead after Maddie Joyce put a free position shot off the pipe. Van den Broek caught the rebound in the air and scored on a put-back for a 6-5 lead.
That started a five-goal run for Darien, as Vaught scored twice, and Mason Maloney and Humphrey each scored once for a 10-5 advantage.
“We got a couple of goals and we get a little more comfortable, we don’t need to score, and on defense we’re not pressuring as much so we get into our groove,” Humphrey said. “We were more relaxed once we got a couple of goals ahead.”
New Canaan’s Campbell Connors ended the Rams’ slide when she scored with 10:41 remaining, but Dolce then stopped several attempts to cut further into the lead.
The Wave outscored New Canaan 2-1 over the final eight minutes to nail down the win.
Woods said the Rams will go back to work tomorrow, getting ready for the CIAC Class L tournament and a possible third meeting with Darien.
“We just have to get back to basics and get back after it tomorrow at practice,” Woods said. “We’ll have a good Memorial Day weekend off and then a Tuesday game for the state tournament.”
As for the Wave, they’ll take a little time to enjoy the moment before getting ready for the states.
“Really relish this win and then we’re looking for a state ’ship,” Elders said. “We didn’t get that last year and that will be some sweet revenge going forward.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Shea Dolce, Darien. The freshman goalie came up huge in the championship spotlight, making eight saves, including a few at point-blank range down the stretch, to earn MVP honors.
“It’s a big deal but we got knocked out in the semifinals of states last year, so we still have that to play for. Our season is in three phases: Our regular season, and we did pretty well in that, the second phase is the FCIAC championship, and now we enter our third phase which is the state championship.” — Darien coach Lisa Lindley