DARIEN -- Emily Stein scored five goals and the Darien girls lacrosse team claimed the FCIAC's top spot Thursday in a 13-8 win over conference rival Wilton. The Blue Wave (11-1, 9-0 FCAC) carried an 8-1 run from the first half into the early second, when the Warriors staged a late comeback that eventually fell short.
Laura Knapp and Laine Parsons each recorded two goals for Wilton, which fell to 10-2, 9-1 FCIAC.
"Our whole team was really excited going into this game, because they're our biggest in-state competition," Darien goalie Kyra Gardner said. "We just wanted to prove that we're that much better."
Gardner collected nine saves, including back-to-back critical stops during a frenetic finish. With 6:35 to play, Knapp capped a stretch of three unanswered Wilton goals that cut the Wave lead to 11-7. One minute later, she was denied on another scoring try in close, before Darien's Hollis Perticone polished off a hat trick at the other end to effectively seal the victory.
Despite going scoreless in the first half, the senior attack was one of eight different Wave players to earn a point.
"A strength of our team is that at any one moment, someone can pick it up," Darien coach Lisa Lindley said. "Today I thought it was pretty spread out."
Stein opened the game's scoring less than four minutes in on an unassisted effort that was quickly nullified by Warrior scores from Parsons and Shannon Quinlan. Down 2-1, Lindley called for time, hoping to clean up the myriad of small mistakes plaguing her team. Darien then responded by recapturing the lead on four goals scored over a three-minute stretch.
"They're a great team, and sometimes we slip up a little," Gardner said of the Wave's slow start. "But we're always going to get back on our feet, get back into and get focused."
Wilton finally stopped the bleeding via its final goal of the half at 3:57 remaining, only to allow Wave junior Caroline Bentiez an answering score a half-minute later. The goal, fed by Stein's first of two assists, handed Darien the 7-3 lead it would take into halftime.
From the opposite sideline, the change in momentum didn't so much stem from one team's offensive surge, but rather the other's scoring shortage.
"Offensively, we weren't executing," Wilton coach Meredith Meyran said. "We had as many opportunities as them, we just didn't finish. We didn't move the goalie."
At the outset of the second half, Perticone jump-started her team with a pair of goals notched within three minutes of each other. Two more Stein scores then pushed Darien's edge to its largest of the day at seven, before the Warriors' rallied to make the game competitive once again.
DARIEN 13, WILTON 8
WILTON 3 5 --8
DARIEN 7 6 --13
Records: Wilton 10-2, 9-1 FCIAC, Darien 11-1, 9-0 FCIAC. Scoring: W--Laura Knapp 2 goals, 1 assist, Laine Parsons 2g, Makenna Pearsall 1g, 3a, Sara Dickinson 1g, Cecily Freilich 1g, Shannon Quinlan 1g, Annie Cornbrooks 1a; D-- Emily Stein 5 goals, 2 assists, Hollis Perticone 3g, 1a, Caroline Benitez 2g, 2a, Mariah Matheis 2g, Dillon Schoen 1g, 1a, Lillian Gregory 1a, Chandler Kirby 1a, Anna Moorhead 1a; Goalies: W--Hannah Wiltshire (6 saves); D--Kyra Gardner (9). Shots: W--20; D--21.
Highlights: W--Makenna Pearsall scored twice in the second half during a stretch of three unanswered Wilton goals. D--Emily Stein netted a hat trick with more than six minutes remaining in the first half and finished with five goals. Hollis Perticone tallied three scores after intermission.