By Dave Stewart
DARIEN, Conn. - From the outside looking in, Saturday’s boys’ lacrosse game between the Darien Blue Wave and the New Canaan Rams may have seemed like a bit of a mismatch.
The may seem a little strange as New Canaan has a such a storied history in lacrosse, but this year, the Rams are sporting a new look under first-year head coach Alex Whitten, with a faster-paced style of play and an almost completely revamped starting lineup.
The Wave, on the other hand, is typically penciled in as the FCIAC’s preseason favorite. Darien has only lost once to a Connecticut team in three years and has one of its deepest rosters in years with more than 100 kids in the program.
Darien also routed Jamesville-Dewitt, the defending New York Class B champion last week. The Rams, meanwhile, lost to Greenwich 12-7 a week ago, and looked to be easy pickings for Darien.
But after falling behind 6-2 early in the second half, the Rams turned up the heat, rallying to tie the game at 6-6 in the fourth quarter. Darien junior attack Nikki Dysenchuk scored the game-winner with 5:10 remaining to give the Wave a narrow 7-6 victory, but it may have been the Rams who walked away feeling like winners.
“All season, we’ve been hearing how we’re not going to do well, we’ve got a new coach, we lost a lot of seniors, and everyone’s been predicting us to be at the bottom of the table,” New Canaan goalie Fergus Campbell, who collected 15 saves, said. “But to come out and play Darien like this and lose by one, I think that will shut some people up.”
The closeness of the final score may not be as surprising as it seems on the surface, as Darien and New Canaan are heated rivals, with the underdog often leaping up to bite the favorite.
Darien head coach Jeff Brameier felt his team may have gotten caught up in the moment.
“I think we were in control but we let ourselves get into the rivalry,” the coach said. “It became an exhausting game for everybody. This was the first day, the first rivalry game with their new coach, the whole nine yards. Every time you step on the field with New Canaan — you see it in football, you see it in hockey — it gets so intense, that they get exhausted and they try and do too much.
“You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due. They came and they played hard. We don’t take moral victories from this, but we got a victory. I’m sure they’re not happy with the loss, but if that’s a moral victory for them, that’s fine. That’s the hard part being where we’re at, we have the bull’s-eye on our chest and we’re going to get the ‘A’ game from everybody when we step on the field.”
The day started out like any other for the Blue Wave. Darien scored twice in the first five minutes, with junior attacks Tyler Foley and John Bolton netting the goals. Senior midfielder Brendan Eppley then bounced a goal inside the left post at 9:48 for a 3-0 advantage.
The Rams got one back when senior attack Teddy Citrin scored with 5.1 seconds left in the first quarter. Cody Newton took the initial shot which was blocked by goalie Jameson Love, but Citrin picked up the rebound on the left side and fired a low shot into the net.
Darien senior midfielder Mike Ryan and Foley were a deadly combination all afternoon, and the pair hooked up on the Wave’s next two goals. First, Foley fed Ryan on the left side and Ryan one-timed a shot to make it 4-1 at 4:21 of the second quarter.
The Blue Wave defense then held off New Canaan during a long possession and worked a break the other way. Passing the ball quickly upfield, Ryan took the ball on the left, fired a pass over to Foley on the right and Foley sent it in for a 5-1 lead with 1:19 remaining in the half.
New Canaan again scored late in the quarter, after a Citrin shot was blocked by the defense. The ball bounced out to Newton, who fired it past Love as the horn sounded.
At halftime, the Rams talked about finding their game.
“We just decided to play our game,” senior co-captain Chip Murray, who was 13-2 on faceoffs, said. “We admitted that we weren’t playing well and if we could stay within four goals in the first half when we weren’t playing well — if we picked it up — we could crawl back into the game.”
The Ryan-to-Foley combo notched one more goal early in the third quarter as the Blue Wave extended its lead to 6-2.
New Canaan’s comeback began when Joe Costigan assisted Charlie Stanton at 9:32. Costigan made a nice catch on a clearing pass on the right side, raced into the zone and fired a pass ahead to Stanton for the goal at 2:28 of the third.
Just 1:21 later, Mark Simone scored from 10 yards out with an assist from Alex Garrison, making it a 6-4 game.
Costigan then scored on a low shot at 1:40 of the fourth quarter and nailed home the equalizer on a breakaway with 7:50 to play.
The momentum shifted after a New Canaan turnover, when Darien came up with a loose ball near midfield, and Dysenchuk scored on the unsettled situation for a 7-6 lead.
The Rams had a couple of chances down the stretch but Love and the defense came up with the stops.
“For both of us, it’s the biggest game of the year because of the rivalry,” Love, who made 14 saves, said. “They come to play and we come to play and once again they gave us a great game.
“From the get-go I could tell we were playing kind of sloppy,” Love said. “We just weren’t clicking on all cylinders like we normally do. Against Jamesville-Dewitt we came out with seven goals right away. We were passing, our offense was moving the ball well, but we didn’t do that today. I think we came out thinking we were going to destroy them and they gave us a better game than we thought they would.”
Cardinals’ Revenge Dooms Jesuits
No team has frustrated the Greenwich Cardinals more during the past two years than the Fairfield Prep Jesuits.
Prep, the two-time defending Class L champion, had won three of the last four meetings between the two powers, including a 10-9 victory in last year’s State championship game.
The Jesuits also ended the Cardinals’ season in the State quarterfinals in 2006.
Greenwich eased some of the pain from those losses by scoring the final two goals and beating Prep, 12-11, Saturday afternoon at Fairfield University.
The Jesuits held an 11-10 lead with less than three minutes to play, but senior midfielder James Kiernan scored unassisted to tie the score with 2:11 to play.
Senior attack Tucker Stafford then stepped into the spotlight, scoring the game-winner off a long pass from senior defenseman Brian Milazzo with 21.2 seconds remaining.
The winning series began with a stop by junior goalie Kyle Feeney, who cleared the ball out to Milazzo. Milazzo brought the ball upfield and sent it ahead to Stafford near the crease and Stafford did the rest.
Greenwich (5-0) received hat tricks from Stafford and Sean Sutton, while Kiernan added two goals. Matt Feeney had a goal and three assists, while Jim Dunster, Colin Dunster and Jared Horowitz all scored single goals. Kyle Feeney made 15 saves for the victors.
For Prep (3-1), Brendan Rotanz scored four goals, Paul Finlay had two goals and an assist, Spenser Parnell had two goals, and Ward Gruppo, Tucker Shanley and Chase Bailey also scored.
There were several momentum shifts in the game. Greenwich led 3-1 after one quarter and 6-2 in the second, before the Jesuits closed the half with a 5-0 run to take a 7-6 lead.
The Cards scored the first four goals of the second half to take a 10-7 lead, but again Prep responded, as the Jesuits reeled off four straight goals for a 11-10 lead. Greenwich then ended the game with the final two goals for the dramatic victory.
Dave Stewart, the Sports Editor of the New Canaan (Conn.) Advertiser, is a MaxPreps.com writer and photographer. He may be reached at 203-966-9541 or at firstname.lastname@example.org