It just wouldn’t seem like an FCIAC girls lacrosse championship game without Darien playing in it.
With that in mind, the Blue Wave secured its spot in the conference final for the seventh straight year with a hard-earned 14-7 win over Greenwich in the second game of Monday night’s semifinal doubleheader at Norwalk High School.
Top-seed Darien will try to make it seven FCIAC crowns in a row and 17 overall when it faces No. 3 Wilton Thursday at 7 p.m. back at NHS. The Warriors upset second-seeded New Canaan 10-8 in the first game of the semi twinbill.
Thursday night’s contest will be a rematch of last year’s Class L state final, which the Blue Wave won 13-10 for its fifth straight state title. It’s also a rematch of the 2014 FCIAC championship game which Darien also won for the third of its six straight league titles.
In fact, the last time Darien didn’t win the FCIAC championship was in 2011 when the Blue Wave lost to Wilton in the final.
Darien, which has now won 103 consecutive games against in-state opponents, comes into Thursday’s game with a 16-2 record—both losses by 13-12 scores to New York schools.
But its latest victory didn’t come easy. Greenwich, the fourth seed, scored three goals in the first two minutes and Darien suddenly found itself behind 4-1 with less than five minutes gone.
“Greenwich is extremely athletic and fast and unfortunately for us we got a yellow card seconds into the game,” Darien head coach Lisa Lindley said. “It was not a great way to start the game.”
A much-needed timeout certainly helped.
“Basically my message to them was don’t panic,” Lindley pointed out. “I told them we needed to get the ball on draws and we’ll be back. We were rushing when we got the ball instead of working it around and getting into our team offense.
“But I knew once we settled down and started getting the draw we’d be okay and we were.”
Indeed, the Blue Wave scored five of the next six goals. Ashley Humphrey’s goal with15:38 left in the half tied it 4-4, and after Greenwich regained the lead at the 9:08 mark, Katie Elders tied it again for Darien with 5:14 to go. Emma Jaques (two goals, three assists) finally gave DHS its first lead of the game with 2:35 left to make it 6-5 at halftime.
“Once it was 4-4, I thought we settled down and started playing our game,” Lindley said. “It took us a half to figure it out.”
The Blue Wave also had experience on its side.
“My message to the team before the game was Darien has been in the semifinals 18 years. Greenwich has only been there three times,” the DHS coach noted. “Our experience, no doubt, is a positive.”
It showed as Darien outscored Greenwich 8-2 in the second half, although the pesky Cardinals wouldn’t go away quietly. After Nicole Humphrey upped the lead to 7-5 just 1:10 into the second stanza, Greenwich scored consecutive goals 38 seconds apart to tie it 7-7.
But the Blue Wave dominated the final 20 minutes of play with seven unanswered goals as sisters Ashley and Nicole Humphrey scored six of them and Christine Fiore recorded the other.
Ashley Humphrey, a sophomore, finished with five goals and three assists, while junior Nicole Humphrey added four goals and an assist.
“They definitely picked it up,” Lindley said of the sister combo. “We did not have Sara Jaques. She’s hurt (back injury) and that’s a huge loss for us in terms of production. I was happy Nicole and Ashley picked up the slack. We’re definitely going to need that from others Thursday night.”
Darien and Wilton met three weeks ago with the Blue Wave winning 15-10 for its 100th straight win versus Connecticut teams. But that, too, didn’t come easy. Darien was behind 7-5 at halftime—the only time this season it trailed at the break—before outscoring the Warriors 10-3 in the second half.
What’s more, Sarah Jaques, who scored a hat trick in that win, will miss the rematch.
“They’re a talented team as well with very good players,” Lindley said. “But if we can continue to win faceoffs and draws, I think we can be successful.
“These are the games that challenge us, where everything is on the line.”