Darien girls lacrosse overwhelms rival New Canaan to recapture Class L crown

Darien’s Charlotte Wittstock (7) cheers with her teammates after they beat New Canaan in girls Class L lacrosse action in Milford, Conn., on Saturday June 8, 2019. — Christian Abraham/Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — Throughout the girls lacrosse season, the Darien Blue Wave have used the word “redemption” as a rallying cry. That may seem to be an unusual word for a program which has won eight straight FCIAC titles and five of the last six state crowns, but Darien certainly sets a high bar for success.

After their latest performance, the Blue Wave can shift their focus to the word “champions.”

Darien delivered a near-perfect performance and rolled to a 12-6 victory over rival New Canaan in the CIAC Class L championship game at Jonathan Law High School in Milford on Saturday afternoon.

CIAC SPRING CHAMPIONSHIP SCOREBOARD

With the victory, Darien reclaimed the state title after losing to New Canaan in the semifinals last year.

Beating the rival Rams in the final made the win even better for the Wave.

“It just makes it that much sweeter,” Darien senior co-captain Katie Elders said. “This is one of the most talented and close teams that we’ve had in a while and we really were sticking to the tradition of Blue Wave girls lacrosse. We have the depth, we have the skill and we have the passion and we really put all of that together today.”

“This season has been very unique,” senior co-captain Nicole Humphrey said. “The team chemistry has been unmatchable from any other year. Every win with this team has been even better because we all have been so close. This win is really special for all of us.”

The state championship is the 10th in program history for second-seeded Darien (21-2), which has now won in its last 10 trips to the finals.

Darien delivered a tour de force on offense as seven players scored and 10 of the 12 goals were assisted.

“My attack had seven different scorers and that’s tough to defend,” Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. “That’s a tribute to our program and our philosophy where we didn’t center everything around a star. Everyone has a chance to contribute.”

Ashley Humphrey and Shea van den Broek each had a hat trick, and Humphrey added one assist, while Sarah Jaques, Elders and Maddie Joyce each had one goal and two assists.

Senior Nicole Humphrey, who had missed the last 11 games with an injury, returned for the state final and scored twice, including Darien’s final goal in the last minute. Her return to the lineup was an added emotional boost for the Blue Wave.

“She brought everyone’s level up and they were psyched, but also she’s a solid player,” Lindley said. “She’s an all-American. I was happy that she got in and that she contributed, and that’s just another player that (New Canaan) had to worry about.”

For fourth-seeded New Canaan (18-5), McKenna Harden scored twice, and Lauren Bisceglia, Campbell Connors, Kaleigh Harden and Dillyn Patten had one goal apiece.

It was a tough loss for the Rams, the defending Class L champions who were unbeaten in-state with the exception of three losses to Darien.

“We didn’t play the full 50 minutes and against Darien you’ve got to play the full 50 minutes,” New Canaan coach Kristin Woods said. “I’m bummed for my seniors. Everybody could’ve played a little bit better today, but we just didn’t.”

The Rams led 2-1 after goals from Patten and Bisceglia in the first five minutes, but the Wave scored the next six goals over a span of 22 minutes to gain control.

Elders, Eva Finn, Catie Duggan, Nelle Kniffin and Kate Bellissimo led a defensive effort which did a great job forcing the Rams into difficult shots.

“We really worked on communicating more because that’s really where we fell down in the Wilton (semifinal) game,” Elders said. “Working on our slides, getting second slides, and having each other’s backs really play into our whole philosophy of team defense.”

Down 7-2 early in the second, the Rams’ McKenna Harden and Connors scored back-to-back goals, but the Wave responded with three straight — two from Ashley Humphrey and one from Nicole Humphrey — for a 10-4 advantage.

But the Rams didn’t go away, getting goals from Kaleigh and McKenna Harden to cut the deficit to 10-6.

“All the middies did a great job on the draw circle,” Woods said. “I think offensively we could’ve protected our sticks better — they had a few backchecks that hurt us. And we’ve got to shoot better. Our shots weren’t the best. It’s always about improving and getting better and hopefully next year, we’ll be right back here.”

Darien was able to possess the ball in the final eight minutes, chewing up the clock and limiting New Canaan’s opportunities.

Van den Broek completed her hat trick with 4:05 remaining, and Nicole Humphrey put the icing on the cake with a goal in the final minute.

With the postgame celebration, the Blue Wave had finally put all of its season goals in the books.

“This is awesome — FCIAC and state champions,” Elders said. “We really did all that we wanted to do this season. I think it really proves how close we were on and off the field. That really helped us get the victories each time.”

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“I’m really proud of them. They sacrificed a lot and they endured a lot with me riding them, which was not pleasant all the time. If you ask any of them, they probably hated going through that, but they know at the end, if they do what I ask, they’re in this position.” — Darien coach Lisa Lindley

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com

@dstewartsports

CLASS L GIRLS LACROSSE CHAMPIONSHIP

DARIEN 12, NEW CANAAN 6

New Canaan  2 4 – 6
Darien             6 6 – 12

Scoring: New Canaan: McKenna Harden 2g; Dillyn Patten 1g; Kaleigh Harden 1g; Lauren Bisceglia 1g; Campbell Connors 1g; Kendall Patten 1a; Darien: Ashley Humphrey 3g, 1a; Shea van den Broek 3g; Sarah Jaques 1g, 2a; Katie Elders 1g, 2a; Maddie Joyce 1g, 2a; Nicole Humphrey 2g; Molly McGuckin 1g; Jordan Vaught 1a; Charlotte Wittstock 1a; Goalies: NC – Caroline O’Dea 5 saves; D – Shea Dolce 3 saves; Maggie Brooks 0 saves; Records: New Canaan 18-5; Darien 21-2