Darien adds 19th state championship to girls lacrosse dynasty

STRATFORD — Playing in the Darien girls lacrosse program comes with a unique perspective. It’s a team which measures success with championships, a goal it has achieved on the state level many times during the past 20 years.

Chalk another one up for the Blue Wave dynasty.

Darien won its seventh state championship in eight seasons with a methodical 14-6 victory over Ludlowe in the CIAC Class L final at Bunnell High in Stratford on Saturday.

The Wave has now won 19 state championships dating back to 1995, prior to the CIAC sanctioning the sport in 2004.

As senior co-captain Nelle Kniffin puts it, it’s a moment which is both happy and sad.

“This feels great and it feels like really good closure,” Kniffin said. “It’s sad; it’s a bittersweet moment because we’re leaving our team behind and they mean so (much) to us, but it’s awesome to finish this chapter on a high note.”

“As a junior, I can definitely attest we all just wanted to win it for (the seniors),” Darien goalie Shea Dolce said. “We’ve had a tough year, but after losing FCIACs, we were all gunning really hard today. We won it for them and that was what the goal was.”

Darien’s numbers in the state final are truly remarkable. The Wave (18-3) now has an 11-game winning streak in state championship games, a run which started in 2007, and is an eye-popping 30-1 in state tournament games since 2013.

In the moment, Darien coach Lisa Lindley said she was happy for her players to be back on the field and in the winner’s circle after missing last season.

“It’s been a long 18 months for everyone, especially for the freshmen and the sophomores who are really freshmen because they missed last year, and for the seniors going out,” Lindley said. It’s amazing and it’s a good way to go out after they were on lockdown for so long.”

Ludlowe, the No. 7 seed, capped its best season with a Class L runner-up finish and a 17-5 record. The Falcons last reached a state final in 2010, when they beat Staples for the Div. II title.

“I feel very proud of them and it was a huge accomplishment,” Ludlowe coach Jay Fellows said. “It’s been more than 10 years since we’ve been in the finals, and the first time in the Class L final, so it felt great. I told them how proud I was of them this entire season, and today of their work ethic. I’m really optimistic about where this team is going and the direction that we’re taking.”

The Wave received a five-goal performance from sophomore Chloe Humphrey, with junior Molly McGuckin netting a hat trick and one assist. Sophomore Ryan Hapgood scored twice.

For Ludlowe, juniors Claire Davenport and Campbell Eckert each scored twice, and sophomore Kaleigh Sommers and senior Callie Cirilli had one goal apiece.

The teams traded goals and were tied 2-2 thirteen minutes into the game when Hapgood scored and ignited a 3-0 run for the Wave. Davenport broke the slide for the Falcons, but McGuckin answered with two goals in the final 1:05 of the first half for a 7-3 lead.

Ludlowe’s Eckert opened the second half with a goal to close the gap to three, but Darien responded by scoring five of the next six goals to put the game out of reach.

“They’re a tough team,” Fellows said. “They put pressure on us a lot, we found moments of getting organized and executing and then sometimes they prevented us from doing that. Give a lot of credit to them — they’re a great team and they put us in that position.”

As the time ticked down, the Blue Wave began to realize they were on the verge of another title.

“The middle of the second half when we started to go on a run and we were playing Darien lacrosse,” Dolce said. “I kind of knew that we’ve got this.”

QUOTABLE

“The seniors missed their junior season, and we lost FCIACs to New Canaan, which was a tough one, so this means so much to the seniors. The whole team has worked so hard, so we’re extremely proud of everyone.” — Darien senior co-captain Nelle Kniffin

david.stewart

@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

DARIEN 14, LUDLOWE 6

LUDLOWE 3 3 — 6

DARIEN 7 7 — 14

Scoring: Ludlowe: Claire Davenport 2g, 1a; Campbell Eckert 2g; Callie Cirilli 1g; Kaleigh Sommers 1g; Darien: Chloe Humphrey 5g; Molly McGuckin 3g, 1a; Ryan Hapgood 2g; Shannon Dahlquist 1g; Colette Quijnn 1g; Nelle Kniffin 1g; Goalies: L - Kennedy Carr 10 saves; D - Shea Dolce 5 saves; Records: Ludlowe 17-5; Darien 18-3.