NEW CANAAN — If the “sophomore stud” goalie, as his coach called him, is stopping everything coming near him, and if he and his defense are getting on the same page in communication, it’s not a good time to be someone other than Darien in state boys lacrosse.
The No. 1 Blue Wave dominated defensively, holding New Canaan scoreless for almost 32 minutes Saturday at Dunning Stadium, beating the Rams 12-4 to secure the top seed in the FCIAC.
“We played team defense. The middies did a good job. We communicated a lot more than we used to,” said Darien sophomore goalie Andy Demopoulos, who finished with 15 saves.
“(Assistant) coach (Chris) Sgritta emphasized that a lot: Any good defense needs to communicate a lot.”
The Blue Wave forced turnovers and made sure the No. 3 Rams’ possessions were one-and-done at best until the game was well out of reach.
“Darien does what they do best, capitalize on mistakes that others make,” New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo said. “They force mistakes, and they don’t give you a second chance, that’s for sure. They executed perfectly.”
It was 9-0 in favor of Darien (12-3, 11-0 in-state, 10-0 FCIAC) late in the third quarter before the Rams (10-5, 10-1 against CIAC teams, 8-1 FCIAC) scored three goals.
Demopoulos made saves, and a wave of Blue Wave defenders kept New Canaan’s potent offensive weapons quiet.
“You could see we had three or four guys on (North Carolina-bound Quintin) O’Connell at one point or another,” said midfielder Blake Cellar, one of those three or four guys.
“To lock him up, lock that offense up, is hard to do. They score a lot of goals.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Andy Demopoulos stopped New Canaan’s first 10 shots on target as his team built a 9-0 lead.
“We feel, if we can get (opponents) to take the wrong shots, they’re not going to go in,” Blue Wave midfielder Bruce Ferguson said.
“He’s basically standing on his head every game for us. He’s been really consistent.”
New Canaan’s Tim Norton and Justin Wietfeldt have shone on faceoffs all year, and they started strong Saturday, but Darien’s Matt Freeman started to hold his own in the second quarter.
“The game plan was to try to keep the faceoff percentage and the save percentage on our side to total over 100 percent,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said.
“Matt was probably 40-50 percent at the faceoff, which was unexpected, but he’s been working his butt off at it. … And obviously Demopoulos continues to be a sophomore stud. He had just a tremendous day, blocking shots, saving shots, coming out of the cage and making plays.”
TALKING THE TALK
“Both sides of the ball, we preach the off-ball concept,” Brameier said, reacting to Demopoulos’ talking about the defense’s improved communication. “You better be a good guy with the ball or on the ball, or you’re not going to be on the field. It’s the guys that are good off-ball, both on offense and defense, that take you to the next level.”
“We have a sophomore goalie who’s not as vocal as he’s going to be in the future. He’s more concerned with making saves. Goalies, as they get more confident, like to direct their defense. But I think now we’re getting direction from (junior defender Sam) Cragin. He’s a cerebral kid.”
The teams honored Mary Socci, the Newtown girl battling brain cancer. She conducted the pregame coin toss with her father, referee Lew Socci. Both coaching staffs wore pink “Socci Strong” shirts.
— Matthew Brown (@mattbpix) May 11, 2019
“I’m a football player. Whenever I get the chance to play New Canaan — I haven’t won a Turkey Bowl since sophomore year — I’m always ready to play. I’m sure we’ll see these guys down the line. They’re a great team. We came out today. We played strong. We were the better team today.” — Darien midfielder Bruce Ferguson