The Darien girls lacrosse team is coming home.
Following a 12-6 semifinal defeat of No. 7 Cheshire Tuesday, the Blue Wave has advanced to its seventh state championship in nine years. Senior Hollis Perticone posted five goals for Darien, which used an 8-1 second half run to break away from the Rams at West Haven High School.
The third-seeded Blue Wave (20-2) will meet No. 1 Glastonbury in the Class L final Saturday at Bunnell High School at a time yet to be determined.
"We want it to be the peak of our season," Perticone said of the championship game. "We want to finish strong."
Cheshire senior Madeline Levy scored five times, but could only watch when her defense surrendered three critical man-up goals in the second half. Down one with fewer than 15 minutes to go, Rams defenseman Samantha Trott was handed a yellow card away from the ball for the first such penalty of the game. Perticone then netted three scores, two via Ana Moorhead assists, pushing the score to 8-4 before Cheshire (15-6) could work again at full strength.
Upon Trott's return, the Rams quickly responded with Levy's fourth goal, only to watch Darien senior Dillon Schoen answer back less than a minute later. Three more Blue Wave scores sealed the game's outcome, before Levy struck again with under one second remaining.
"We knew if they got a lead of more than a goal or two that it was going to start getting rough," Cheshire coach Dan Warburton said. "We had some breaks that didn't go our way there in the second half, then they got a couple in a couple minutes and it got kind of hard."
The first half proved to be equally difficult for both squads, as they engaged in a physical defensive style that yielded only two goals in the opening 12 minutes. Down early, Darien battled back to take a 3-2 lead with a Mariah Matheis goal on the doorstep fed by Schoen. Another Cheshire score was then matched by an unassisted Schoen effort in close that gave the Blue Wave a 4-3 halftime edge.
Each team recorded a mere seven shots leading up to intermission.
"On offense, they like to pull it out and slow the game down, and that's something that's hard to play against because then you lose your momentum," Perticone said. "You don't have as many opportunities because they take a lot of time off, and we just weren't finishing."
While the Perticone-led offensive outburst helped Darien ultimately separate from Cheshire, Wave coach Lisa Lindley pointed to her team's work at the other end as another important difference-maker.
"I thought we did a better job defensively in the second half," Lindley said. "We made some good adjustments personnel-wise, and the kids off the bench stepped up and did a good job."
With the win, FCIAC champion Darien has now beaten the 2014 SWC and SCC champions in consecutive weeks.
DARIEN 12, CHESHIRE 6
CHESHIRE 3 3 --6
DARIEN 4 8 --12
Records: Darien 20-2, Cheshire 15-6. Scoring: C-- Madeline Levy 5 goals, Emma Farrel 3 assists, Olivia Larson 1g, Meghan Dutchyshyn 1a; D-- Hollis Perticone 5g, 1a, Mariah Matheis 3g, Dillon Schoen 2g, 2a, Emily Stein 1g, 1a, Katie Cronin 2a, Anna Moorhead 2a, Chandler Kirby 1g; Goalies: C--Alexa Carbone (9 saves); D--Kyra Gardner (5).
Highlights: C--Madeline Levy netted five goals. D--Hollis Perticone scored three man-up goals in the second half en route to game total of five. Mariah Matheis recorded a hat trick and Dillon Schoen finished with two goals and two assists.