It’s been a little more than a week since the Darien girls lacrosse team saw its season come to an abrupt end with a 12-11 loss to New Canaan in the Class L state semifinals.
But while the sting from last Tuesday night’s stunning defeat still lingers, what absolutely can’t be lost is the fact the Blue Wave had another outstanding season.
No, Darien didn’t end the 2018 campaign with a state championship the way it did the previous five seasons. But there was still a lot to be proud of. Like a sparkling 19-3 record, including three wins against formidable programs from New York and New Jersey.
There was also an unprecedented seventh straight FCIAC crown, the program’s record 17th overall. And before the loss to New Canaan, the Blue Wave extended its amazing winning streak against in-state opponents to 107 in a row.
Yes, there was certainly a lot to be proud of.
“Definitely, this group should be proud,” agreed head coach Lisa Lindley, who completed her 25th season and has guided DHS to 16 state championships. “We won the FCIAC title again and our three losses were all by one goal.”
The Blue Wave’s only regular-season losses — both by identical 13-12 scores — came against Manhasset (N.Y.) and St. Stephens/St. Agnes of Virginia in overtime.
But unlike those two setbacks, which Lindley clearly thought Darien held the upper hand and should’ve won, the Hall of Fame coach had a different perspective on the season-ending loss to New Canaan.
“We didn’t play up to our potential,” she said. “It’s disappointing we lost, but we were outplayed. New Canaan deserved to win.”
Darien defeated the Rams 12-6 back on April 28, but the game was a lot closer than the final score might indicate, according to Lindley.
“They played us strong in the first half and then we took over in the second half,” she pointed out.
The rematch five and a half weeks later, however, followed a different script.
“I felt my girls were not ready to play,” Lindley said. “We had a special game plan, but once we got into the game we didn’t follow it and we made a lot of turnovers.”
As a result, New Canaan took charge early and built a 7-3 halftime lead. The Rams were still in control midway through the second half, leading 11-7 with 12 minutes remaining, when Darien rallied. The Blue Wave scored four straight goals with Nicole Humphrey tipping in the tying goal with 3:52 left.
But the Rams regained the lead, scoring what proved to be the winning goal with 2:55 left. Darien gained possession of the ball twice in the final minutes, but turned it over as time ran out on the Blue Wave’s five-year reign as state champs.
“We were able to crawl back in at the end, but we couldn’t close it out,” Lindley said. “We had multiple shots on goal, but we didn’t get any shots at goal. That was sort of our demise.”
While the past few seasons Darien saved its best for last, Lindley thought this season’s team may have peaked just a bit too early.
“We did not play our best lacrosse down the stretch and I was concerned,” she admitted. “We (the coaching staff) did our best to get them ready.
“But give New Canaan credit. I honestly thought they outplayed us three-quarters of the game.”
The fifth-seeded Rams went on to beat No. 6 Ridgefield 19-7 in Saturday’s Class L state final.
Top-seeded Darien defeated Ridgefield 21-6 in the third game of the season, which supports the argument that the two best teams in the state played in the semifinals.
It was the final high school game for seven Darien seniors, all of whom will continue their lacrosse careers in college: Katie Ramsay (USC), Christine Fiore (U.S. Naval Academy), Emma Jaques (Northwestern), Kendall Wisinski (Richmond), Charlotte Harmon (Florida), Lauren Jennings (Colby), and Lindsey Ferreira (Lynchburg).
That group was part of four straight FCIAC championships and three state titles.
“I’m sure they’re all going to be successful in lacrosse at their respective colleges,” Lindley said. “They added a lot of value to our team with their leadership and play and hopefully they passed the torch to the underclassmen on the team.”
That’s the good news for the Blue Wave. A host of players, including six starters, return next season and motivation shouldn’t be a problem.
“That’s the positive thing about losing,” Lindley said. “You refocus yourself, you re-challenge yourself, and you set new goals. Now our streak is over so we can start a new streak.
“We will grow from this, learn from this, and come back next year even stronger.”