Darien makes jump to L and finds old foe Greenwich waiting
Greenwich High School has held the Class L girls lacrosse title for two seasons, but this year Darien is on the scene to try to take it away.
The Blue Wave, who competed in the Class M Tournament the last two years, moved to Class L this spring and they will renew their long-standing FCIAC rivalry with the Cardinals in a winner-take-all game Saturday.
Second-seeded Darien (20-1) and fourth-seeded Greenwich (17-4) will play for the CIAC Class L crown in Saturday's 1 p.m. final at Bunnell High School.
The two-time defending Class L champion Cardinals have advanced to the title game four years in a row, while the Blue Wave, winners of the Class M championship in 2011 and the Division I crown in four times, have lived in the postseason.
"Having two teams from our league in the finals proves the FCIAC is the best," Darien senior attack Taylor Hardison said. "We know a lot of the Greenwich girls from playing against them year round, so it should be a great game."
Two-time defending FCIAC champion Darien has rolled to the finals, winning 18 straight after suffering its lone loss of the season -- a 12-11 double overtime defeat against nationally ranked Garden City, N.Y. Greenwich, meanwhile, has followed a pattern that's been successful in the past. After falling to New Canaan in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals, the Cardinals have played their best lacrosse of the year, knocking off Ridgefield, Cheshire and Glastonbury to earn a return trip to the finals.
"We peak at the right time," GHS coach Caitlin Keane said. "You work all season to improve and get better and every year this team seems to play their best lacrosse during the postseason. They like the taste of winning and they're eager to get another notch in their belt with a win."
Saturday's showdown is a rematch of last season's FCIAC final, won by the Blue Wave, 17-14. Darien also downed visiting Greenwich, 17-9, on May 8. The Cards held first-half leads of 6-4 and 7-5 before entering halftime with a 7-6 edge. Then it was all Blue Wave in the second half, outscoring the Cardinals, 11-2.
"If we do what we've been doing all year and take good shots, while showing patience offensively, we'll be OK," Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. "Greenwich has a great team and this is going to be a tough rematch."
Keane has emphasized the bright spots from her team's game against the Blue Wave.
"We reflect on the first half and put the second half out of our memory," Keane said. "We had them for a half, before they took control in the second half. They have strong attackers overall and when they play a composed game they are an unstoppable team. We are the same way when we are disciplined."
Said GHS senior midfielder and quad-captain Emily Johnson: "The first half we showed we could contend with them and since then we have matured as a team a lot. Deep down, all the seniors want this because this is our last game at Greenwich High and we want to leave a legacy of winning three championships."
Both teams have flourished offensively, with Darien scoring 371 goals on the season (17.6 goals per game, double digit scoring in each contest) and Greenwich lighting the scoreboard 315 times. Senior attack Emma Christie, Johnson, senior midfielder Carolyn Paletta, senior attack Sophie Waine, sophomore attack Maddy Graves, sophomore midfielder Jenny Goggin and sophomore attack Meghan Collins have paced Greenwich's offense. The Blue Wave also have a lot of options offensively with Stein, Schoen, Hardison, junior midfielder Lexie Perticone, senior middie Hollis Perticone senior midfielder Kristen Gilbert and senior attack Jena Fritts leading the way.
"It's going to be important for us to take our shots and score on our opportunities," Johnson said. "Their goalie is one of the best in the FCIAC, so we have to try to take advantage of the chances we get."
Behind senior goalie Caylee Waters and a strong defense, Darien has yielded only 122 goals, allowing just three opponents to reach double figures in scoring. Greenwich, which has received impressive play from first-year sophomore goalie, Kylie Ginsberg, has also been stingy defensively.
"It's our fourth year in a row making it to the state finals and I don't think another team has done that the past four years," Keane said. "That's special and I keep reminding the team to focus on the positives."