Darien girls soccer clinches FCIAC bid with Senior Night victory

Senior co-captain Lauren Sulger in action during the Blue Wave's victory over Greenwich. - Darien Athletic Foundation photo
Senior co-captain Lauren Sulger in action during the Blue Wave's victory over Greenwich. — Darien Athletic Foundation photo

Making the FCIAC playoffs is certainly nothing new for the Darien High girls soccer program or, for that matter, head coach Leigh Parsons.

Parsons is in his eighth year with DHS and the Blue Wave has made both the FCIAC and state tournaments all eight years.

This season, however, Darien had to go down to the final day of the regular season before securing its spot in the conference playoffs with a 5-1 win over visiting Norwalk High on “Senior Night” Monday.

“It was great. All the seniors got to play in their last home game,” an elated Parsons said. “It’s great to play your last home game under the lights with family and friends in the stands and get a nice win where everyone contributes. It’s a nice way to wrap up the season.”

And not a bad way to go into the postseason beginning Thursday when the Blue Wave travels to Westport to play unbeaten and No. 1 seed Staples.

Darien finished tied for seventh with Brien McMahon, both teams with 29 points. But even though the Blue Wave (9-5-2) had one more win than the Senators (8-3-5), the two teams played a 1-1 tie against one another and McMahon tied Staples while Darien lost to the Wreckers, giving the tie-breaker edge — and seventh place — to McMahon.

That set up a rematch between Darien and Staples, who the Blue Wave lost to 3-1 exactly two weeks ago Friday. The Wave will play in the quarterfinals at Staples at 3 p.m., Thursday.

“We have the utmost respect for Staples,” Parsons said. “They’re obviously the No. 1 seed for a reason. We lost to them 3-1, but we were winning 1-0 and if we focus and correct some things, I think we could have a better performance this time.

“I don’t think Staples is taking us lightly even though we’re the No. 8 seed. We’ve earned that respect and that’s a credit to the girls.”

Besides, the DHS coach added, his team is a different team now than when it played Staples the first time.

“We’ve gotten better. We kind of learned from that game,” he said. “It’s not about being better than Staples all season. Now we got to show up and be better for one game.”

Darien got off to a flying start this season, boasting an 8-2-1 record after 11 games. But the Blue Wave then lost three in a row, including 1-0 to rival New Canaan, the 3-1 loss to Staples, followed by a 2-1 setback to Westhill.

The offense suddenly went cold with only two goals in the three games.

“We weren’t scoring, but we were creating opportunities,” Parsons noted. “Against Westhill we had 20 chances and only scored once. It just wasn’t our day. I thought we did enough to win any of those games.”

That same could be said about last Friday’s 1-1 tie against St. Joe’s, which was unbeaten at the time. The Cadets lost their first game Monday against Staples, 1-0, and will be the No. 2 seed.

Meanwhile, Darien’s offense re-discovered itself on Monday as the Wave jumped out to a 3-0 halftime lead en route to the impressive 5-1 triumph. Leading scorer Ellen Harnisch tallied two more goals, while Olivia Yoo, Kate Bellissimo and freshman Cici Stein each found the back of the net once.

“So we’re coming off two good games heading into the playoffs,” Parsons said. “We just tied St. Joe’s, which hadn’t lost a game at that point, and then we had a big game against Norwalk. If everything clicks like that in the playoffs, we’ll be fine.

“And regardless of what happens, we know we still have another big tournament to play in.”

Last year, you may recall, the Blue Wave made it all the way to the Class LL state semifinals before losing 3-2 to eventual runner-up Staples.

“Hopefully, our girls have another nice run in them,” Parsons concluded. “But right now our focus is on Thursday.

“Our ultimate goal every year is to make both tournament and we’ve been doing that consistently. It says a lot about our girls and the program to go back year after year.”