Too often getting lost on the way to the net during the regular season, in the end, it was a case of Darien always having the ruby slippers it needed to click-click-click its way home with the FCIAC crown.
Past scoring woes were all forgotten as the Wave hit the net plenty, as it was always capable of on paper, to beat Greenwich 17-14 for the girls lax conference title at Casagrande Field in Norwalk on Friday afternoon.
And what did you learn, Darien?
“We learn from our mistakes, we definitely did,” said Jenna Fritts, making no mistake about finding the twine four times, and ending up the FCIAC Championship Game MVP. “We lost to them in the regular season, and it was our time to prove ourselves, and we did it.”
Scoring often was key, if No. 4 seed Darien (14-5) wasn’t to get caught once more, as it did losing by one to the No. 3 Cards the last time the two teams met.
Because Greenwich made a stab at it to keep it close down the stretch.
Said Cardinals (16-3) coach Caitlin Keane: “You know, just a couple of ground balls that could have gone our way — just running through the ball — the girls just didn’t come up with it when we needed to.
“And they capitalized on us.”
“We knew we had to get the goals,” said Fritts. “And the attack did it. And the defense just worked with us. We all played as a team, it really was that.”
Emily Stein scored four and had an assist, Taylor Hardison had a hat trick and two assists, Fritts five points, Dillon Schoen a hat trick and assist, Brynn Gasparino two goals, two helpers, Kristy Gilbert a goal and an assist.
“I think my offense was on — I think we did pretty well,” Wave coach Lisa Lindley said. “And Caylee (Waters, eight saves) came up with some big saves at the end. That was key.”
Darien put 25 shots on goal.
For Greenwich Sophie Wayne and Carolyn Poletta scored four goals each. Claire Feeney and Tori Dunster had two goals each, Emily Johnson and Emma Christie one apiece.
Wayne had three assists Feeney two, Shannon Colligan and Johnson one each.
Darien led 5-2 just over half way through the first half, but Greenwich crept back, and it was 6-6 with 9:03 to play in the first.
It was tag, with the Wave going up 7-6 then again being matched 7-7 with 6:35 left.
But the Wave made its first move out of danger with Emily Stein’s back-to-back markers at 6:08 and 3:37, the first weaving to the front and firing, and the goal to make it 9-7 scored on the payoff of a long, swirling pass-around by the Wave.
Greenwich scored for 9-8 at 3:15, then it was Waters’ turn to take center stage.
She made a big stick save to keep the one goal lead, going to the deck, while reaching up to make the stop.
And with 25 seconds on the clock Waters got the main spotlight too, trapping a shot with a stick save over her head on a free position.
Earlier creaky moments in the crease when Greenwich scored three straight, all on shots down at her feet, dissolved into the mist that hovered over the stadium for most of the game.
“In the first half I was nervous and I think that got me off to a rocky start,” Waters said. “My team really covered up for me.”
“We really had to focus on getting the momentum, because at half, we only had a one goal lead,” Gasparino said. “And that wasn’t good enough.
“We had to do as we did against New Canaan. Just score, score, score, on fast breaks.”
Stein scored for a 10-8 lead, and the hat trick seconds into the second half, on another nice set up, with Fritts working the ball from the back, in deep on the left side.
Hardison, then Fritts on a free position made it 12-8.
“It gets nerve racking,” said Fritts. “But then we got the momentum in the beginning of the second half and that really pulled us together.”
But Poletta fired back with two straight to bring Greenwich up to 12-10, the second one coming with 19:20 to play in the half.
Schoen scored for 13-10 on a nice rush, firing from the middle at 19:06, and Fritts made it 14-10 running it down right off a face-off.
“I thought Charlett (Stevenson) did very well maintaining the face-offs,” said Lindley. “And obviously we scored a lot of goals on fast breaks. So, that was good.”
And Gilbert ended the surge Darien needed with what turned out to be the winner for a 15-10 lead at 17:15.
Darien appeared to have torn up the Cards once and for all, with Hardison forcing a turnover down deep, wand Gilbert getting the payoff, scoring from the right side on a one-timer.
One more time Greenwich came back though. From 15:01 to 7:54 to go in regulation the Cardinals scored four straight to come up to within one goal, at 15-14.
“The game was back-and-forth for a while. We dug ourselves out of almost a five goal lead,” said Keane. “And we’ve done that before against them.”
Except, the spotlight at center stage, this time one bright enough to bathe the Empire State, swung back around to Waters.
She held her ground with Dunster charging in and firing to stop Greenwich’s last ditch attack with her stick.
This, was the save of the game.
Darien went into a long possession only stopped by Hardison, who scored to make it 16-14 at 3:12.
With 1:18 left Schoen nailed the lid shut with goal No. 17.
“In the second half we realized that those two, Feeney and Poletta, were scoring the majority of their goals, so we were up and we wanted to make sure that they didn’t get any more,” defenseman Emily Tropsa said. “So we decided to face-guard both of them. And completely shut them down. And, it worked out for us in the end.”
Vanessa Budd was on Feeney.
“Vanessa’s really quick, so she’s great on the face-guard,” Tropsa added.
“On defense we totally eliminated the players,” said Gasparino.
“We made some adjustments, on defense,” Lindley said. “I don’t think it was a spectacular defensive game on either end.”
It was a little like the proverbial track meet, or the way they were trading goals, even something like high powered ping-pong, at times.
“It’s Darien, it’s the same thing we do every single time — it’s back-and-forth, back-and-forth, back-and-forth,” said Keane. “And they got it this time. And props to them, they had a great game.”
Keane also said it was down to Darien just having more, “gusto.”
So. Was it gusto?
“We talked about that all week as far as setting the tempo, and finishing everything,” Lindley said. “And I think the girls, from the time the whistle blew, they were going after it.
“And that’s what I wanted.”
What did the girls just want?
“We were having fun, and that put a smile on my face,” said Waters. “And that’s what really helps.”