NEW CANAAN -- The New Canaan girls lacrosse team got its revenge on border rival Darien by scoring a 9-6 home victory in the Class M quarterfinals.
The Rams ended their arch-rivals' hopes of repeating as state champs and returned a favor to the Blue Wave, who knocked New Canaan out of the FCIAC tournament en route to winning the crown and ending New Canaan's bid at an undefeated season.
With the victory, top-seeded New Canaan (18-1) advances to Wednesday's semifinal game against No. 5 New Fairfield. The site and time are still to be announced.
"We knew we were going to get another shot at them, and we really wanted to make it count. The last game, we rushed the ball on offense, didn't settle it down and lost it too much in transition," New Canaan's Olivia Hompe said. "But I think all of our attackers really stepped up today. They all came up with goals and that really made the difference in this game."
For the Blue Wave (12-6), the loss ends a tumultuous postseason. Head coach Lisa Lindley was suspended for the postseason several days after an incident during a timeout at the May 25 FCIAC championship when Lindley charged onto the field and grabbed the Darien goalie by the helmet and screamed at her.
Although no New Canaan player scored more than two goals, six players found the back of the Darien net. With Darien's defense keying on stars Sarah Mannelly and Hompe, it was critical for New Canaan to receive other offensive contributions, according to New Canaan coach Kristin Woods.
"Our kids came out with intensity because of the result of the FCIAC game. It was the best 50 minutes I've seen them play yet," Woods said. "It was big that almost all of our attackers had a goal."
One of those attackers who helped get New Canaan's offense rolling was Lily Citrin, who scored New Canaan's third and fourth goals to boost her team's lead to 4-0. New Canaan's first goal was scored by a hard-charging Mannelly less than two minutes into the game, and the Rams doubled their lead when Bea Eppler scored her first of two goals with 18:52 remaining in the first half.
"We had two weeks to practice and we went over tons of stuff and tried to replicate what Darien was going to do. We had been sort of relying on Sarah and Olivia to get like five goals a game for the whole season because they're so great," Citrin said. "But we realized after (the FCIAC semifinals) that that wasn't going to cut it and we really needed to make cuts and get open and show that we're a deep team."
By halftime, New Canaan built its lead to 6-0 on Mannelly's second goal and Olvia Hompe's first of two markers. The Rams received an additional boost when goalie Liz O'Sullivan stopped a Darien penalty shot with 6.5 seconds remaining in the half.
"New Canaan had possession for 90 percent of the first half. When we did have it, we turned it over and didn't convert on our shots," Darien interim head coach Kerri Iorfino said. "The momentum (in the second half) was there, but we turned it over and they scored and that hurt us."
Not willing to go down quietly, Darien began to possess the ball for longer periods of time and cracked the scoreboard when Charlett Stevenson scored less than two minutes into the second half.
Darien inched closer when Jena Fritts found Emily Stein for Darien's second score, and Stein scored an unassisted goal with 13:14 remaining. Less than two minutes later, Darien scored its fourth answered goal courtesy of Dillon Schoen to close to within 6-4, but that was as close as the Blue Wave would get.
New Canaan responded to Darien's run by scoring three unanswered goals of its own from Kristine Ryan, Eppler and Carolina Lizzio to make it 9-4.
Respectively, Darien's Brynn Gasparino and Stein scored with 2:32 and 1:50 remaining, but New Canaan got possession of the ensuing faceoff and was able to run out the clock.
"I have to give credit to our defenders today because they came out hard and got after the ball," Woods said. "Leading that was Julia Tuttle, along with Kelly Armstrong and Wheatley Raabe and Liz O'Sullivan. They never get enough credit, but they definitely deserved it today."
NEW CANAAN 9, DARIEN 6
DARIEN..................................... 0 6--6
NEW CANAAN......................... 6 3--9
Records: Darien 12-6, New Canaan 18-1.
Scoring: D--Emily Stein (3g), Charlett Stevenson (1g), Dillon Schoen (1g), Brynn Gasparino (1g), Jena Fritts (1a), Kristen Gilbert (1a). NC--Lily Citrin (2g), Sarah Mannelly (2g), Bea Eppler (2g), Olivia Hompe (1g), Kristine Ryan (1g), Carolina Lizzio (1g). Goalies: D--Caylee Waters (7 saves); NC--Liz O'Sullivan (5). Shots: D--15; NC--20.