WESTPORT — When Staples and Darien take the field on Saturday afternoon in Wethersfield, it will be for more than just a shot at the Class L state championship.

For two teams that have battled for supremacy at both the conference and state levels, plenty is riding on the outcome of this game.

“We’re confident,” Staples coach Ian Tapsall said. “We’re playing the best field hockey that we’ve played all season.”

The two squads that finished last season in this same predicament, played to a tie and had to settle for a share of the championship. A crown that was split in two — much to the chagrin of many.

“Last year it was our second time where we’ve been co-champs,” Darien coach Maureen Minicus said. “I’d rather play it out, regardless of the outcome.”

While this season has brought about similar results, with the Blue Wave and Wreckers sitting atop the hill in Class L, two of the top programs once again prepare to challenge one another.

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Class L State Final

Darien vs Staples

WHERE/WHEN — Wethersfield High School, Saturday, noon.

RECORDS — Darien 19-2-1-0, Staples 14-3-0-1

REGULAR SEASON MATCHUP — Staples won 2-1

HOW TO GET HERE —Darien: Def. Hall 6-0; Norwalk 2-1 (OT); and Enfield 4-1; Staples: Def. Wilton 2-1; Cheshire 2-1; and Greenwich 2-0

YOU SHOULD KNOW — Rematch of the Class L final from a year ago that ended in a 0-0 draw for a share of the title. Both team are coming into the matchup riding highs and are expected to play a defensive game where a single goal could mean the difference in the end.

Each boasts stellar defenses, as opponents were only able to score a total of two goals against both squads — including a shutout over Hall in a first round win for Darien and a semifinal shutout of Greenwich for the Wreckers.

Despite all the pomp and circumstance entering the game, it will take a near-perfect outing for Staples to leave the field champions, Tapsall said.

“We’ve got to be as flawless as we can,” he said. “I think it’s not going to be many opportunities to score. If we get into the circle we have to make the most of those opportunities.”

Tapsall will have to rely on the veteran leadership of players like Meghan Johnson, Christine Taylor, and Ellie Fair, all who played in the game last season and understand the pressure that come with biggest game of the year.

On the other side of the field, the Blue Wave have mixed in some potent offense with a stout defense that has led them to this point — scoring 12 goals in the tournament heading into Saturday.

Darien comes in with plenty of momentum after soundly beating previously undefeated and No. 1 seeded Enfield 4-1 in the semifinals. But it will take a disciplined effort for Darien to knock off Staples and be the team hoisting the trophy at the end of the day, Minicus said.

“We need to stick to our gameplan,” she said. “And play our game. We really need to attack, and just score more goals.”

Staples knocked off Darien in their lone matchup this season and a second chance is something the Blue Wave are looking forward to, Minicus said.

“But not in a negative or vengeful way,” she said. “We know what we didn’t do on that day, losing was best at the that time because we were able to reflect and dig deep.”

No strangers themselves to the state championship stage, the Blue Wave will look to lean on the attack of junior Shea Van den Broek and senior Sydney Schrenker, while senior Erica Blaze anchors the defense in the goal.

As the noon start on Saturday draws closer, two things are certain for both teams. The competitiveness between the squads is about to reach its peak in the firmly cemented rivalry.

And neither team wants to finish as co-champions again.

“It’s nice to win a state title,” Tapsall said. “The abnormality to share is weird. But a lot of these girls play together on club teams and that enhances the competition.”

ajohnson

@hearstmediact.com; @aronJohnson_