Boys lax takes home Class L crown
Published 3:18 pm, Wednesday, June 17, 2015
One more stop.
A final defensive stand was the only thing standing between the Darien boys lacrosse team and a ninth state championship in 11 years.
With Ridgefield in possession and down by a goal with 1:03 remaining, the Darien defense kept the Tigers to the outside and eventually forced an errant pass that went out of play, giving the Blue Wave possession with 25 seconds to go.
Pressure from Darien’s Nick Tuzinkiewicz and Ian Burgoyne forced the poor pass.
"(The defense) is outstanding," Darien goalie Ryan Cornell (seven saves) said after the Blue Wave survived 6-5. "Mark (Evanchick), Daniel (Traver), Robby (Arrix) and Peter (Doering) and guys like Ian Burgoyne, Nick (Tuzinkiewicz) and John Sommi coming back and playing both ways. It’s just great. As soon as I saw Ian and Tuz get that check down by the crease and it rolls out of bounds, I knew it was in our hands."
Tuzinkiewicz carried the ball up the field and crashed through a Ridgefield defender en route to the Tigers’ side of the field, where the clock ran out on the Blue Wave’s victory, their first state title as part of the Class L field.
"I had total confidence in (goalie) Ryan (Cornell) and anyone who was playing ball," Darien defender Mark Evanchick said.
No. 3 Darien, which defeated its three previous state tournament opponents by a combined score of 53-10, found itself trailing 4-2 at halftime.
The third quarter didn’t start a whole lot better the Blue Wave, as the Tigers slowed the game down with several long possessions. Ridgefield’s Ryan Dunn nearly increased the lead twice, but he was robbed by Cornell on one shot and hit the post on another.
"I expected strong defense," Ridgefield coach Roy Colsey said.
"I’m not surprised by their performance. We even generated the shots we hoped to get too. We hit some pipes and there were a couple of good saves. It was a great high school lacrosse game."
Darien didn’t notch its first shot of the second half until 4:41 remained in the third quarter, but the Blue Wave made it count when Jack Kniffin snapped the ball into the back of the twine after receiving a pass from Colin Minicus, trimming Ridgefield’s lead to 4-3.
Fifty-five seconds later, Darien and Ridgefield were knotted up at 4-4, as Minicus received a pass in deep from Hudson Hamill and scored from short range.
Darien took the lead for good when Minicus found Christian Trifone, who shot and scored to give Darien a 5-4 edge, capping the Blue Wave’s run of three markers in 1:43.
"The third was definitely our best quarter," Minicus said. "The first two quarters we weren’t really clicking. In the third quarter we all just kind of moved around a little more. We tried to focus on getting passes through the seams and getting open shots."
Up by a goal, Evanchick got possession and carried into Ridgefield territory. Looking to dish, Evanchick ultimately decided to shoot, and his goal gave Darien a 6-4 lead with 7:24 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"I brought it down and I was looking to get it to Jack Kniffin or Colin Minicus to start working the ball around, but they locked off on the attackmen so I decided to bring it down and just shot it because no one was coming to me," Evanchick said.
Chasing two, Ridgefield got itself back in the game when Bradley Alexander worked the ball over to Simon Mathias, whose blistering shot cut Darien’s lead to 6-5 with 5:23 to play, though it was also the last goal of the afternoon.
"You’re closer," Colsey said.
"We gave up a couple in a row quickly, but it was close the whole way. We were determined to make it a game for four quarters and have a chance at the end and we did. Those kids didn’t walk away with a state championship medal, but all of them are champions."
No. 9 Ridgefield’s (14-5) strong first half was highlighted by a pair of goals from Mark Galione, who tied the game at 2-2 midway through the second quarter and boosted his team’s lead to 4-2 with 38 seconds left in the second quarter.
In the end, Darien (17-3) used a combination of long possessions and strong defense to run out the clock on their one-goal state championship victory.
"They respond and they’re great kids," Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. "We’ve got some great leadership on this team. Ridgefield wants to possess the ball and they want to frustrate your offense because they don’t have the ball."
"It’s a great feeling," Cornell said. "Coming toward the end of the season we lost three of four and then we rally. I think we won eight or nine straight. A complete sweep of the playoffs. It’s just a great feeling."