NORWALK — The look on Tyler Previte’s face betrayed so many emotions, some all at once, some in sequence.
There was joy, obviously, after his Wilton boys lacrosse team took down No. 1 Darien in the FCIAC semifinals Tuesday night at McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field, a 4-3 win that ended the Blue Wave’s five-year reign atop the conference.
There looked like a smidgen of disbelief, but there was also a ton of the ferocity he’d displayed on defense.
“Since youth we’ve been waiting for this. We’ve never beaten Darien,” Previte said. “Four years in the making, I’ve come on this field and lost to them. I’m just happy. We came out again, and we did it. We’ve got one left.”
The fourth-seeded Warriors, ranked seventh in this week’s GameTimeCT poll, will meet third-seeded, third-ranked New Canaan (13-5) Thursday night at 7 in the final.
The Rams beat Wilton 9-8 early in the regular season. That was among seven consecutive losses that dropped the injury-plagued Warriors to 1-7 at midseason. They’re now 10-8.
When Wilton met Darien on April 18, Previte and fellow defender Ryan Schriber missed the game, injured. They made a difference Tuesday. And All-America goalie Andrew Calabrese made huge saves routinely.
“They’ve got probably the best goalie in the state, a very good defensive unit and a good defensive game plan,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. “They straddled us a little bit, didn’t give us any momentum.
“It was not a slowdown game. … I just think their defense played very well. They played very well against Staples (a 4-3 overtime Wilton win). We knew they were very good defensively — not like we didn’t prepare for them — but you still have to win your one-on-one battles, you have to make plays, and you have to shoot really well when you have a goalie like Calabrese.”
One scorebook credited Calabrese with six saves. The other gave him 16. The truth was probably somewhere in the middle. He denied Darien’s Tommy Hellman a hat trick with about two and a half minutes left, a shot that could’ve tied the game at 3.
“On Monday (the coaches) texted us and told us they had a plan,” Calabrese said. “We just had to execute it, and we did. They know what they’re doing, so hats off to them.”
Hellman opened the scoring midway through the second quarter. Wilton’s John Kauffman answered just before halftime.
Three consecutive Darien 30-second penalties helped the Warriors capture third-quarter momentum after an early Darien flurry. Andrew Luciano scored off a Liam Sullivan pass three seconds after the. first penalty expired to give Wilton the lead for good. Luciano scored during the third penalty to make it 3-1.
“We had to limit their shots. We tried to force them down the alley,” Wilton coach Steve Pearsall said. “They have some unbelievable players, and obviously the best program around. We came through big in the clutch, our defense, and our goalie played out of his mind.”
Reilly Sullivan gave the Warriors a 4-2 lead with 1:53 left, and though Hudson Pokorny scored for Darien a minute later, the Warriors had enough to hold on for an emotional win, with a celebration reminiscent of a championship.
“The guys were getting excited. I think we maintained our composure up until the fourth quarter,” Pearsall said. “We made some mistakes at the end that put ourselves in a more difficult position, but we came through, so we can’t complain. The kids were locked in, focused. Everyone had to do their job. That was our little mantra coming into the game.”
Wilton was the first great state lacrosse power when tournament play began. The Warriors won the first five FCIAC championships, beginning in 1977. No school had won five in a row again until the Blue Wave won the past five.
Now, Wilton has its first appearance in an FCIAC final since 2004.
“The goal’s that ring,” Previte said. “That’s the goal.”