Darien boys lacrosse wins 10-9 thriller
To get to six, they had to go through seven.
With the victory, Darien (16-2) advanced to the semifinal round where it will play No. 3 New Canaan (15-3) on Tuesday.
"When you're one and done -- you lose and you're going home for the rest of the year -- it's a lot of pressure on these kids," Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. "It is what it is. We've lived this in state playoffs for years."
It was the second game of the year between the two premier squads, with Darien winning the first 9-3. However, the Warriors hung tough this time, forcing the Blue Wave to earn it.
"A bunch of high school kids playing their hearts out -- that's what you saw," Wilton coach John Wiseman said. "Everyone out there played hard and they fought. You win and you lose as a team. I'm proud of the team and what they've done. Their actions reflected themselves as a team, but we came up a little short."
Wilton -- the last team to win the championship before Darien's reign -- opened up the game with two quick goals in the first three minutes from Daniel Bartram and Michael Greco, forcing the Blue Wave to call a timeout.
Darien regrouped and Alden Frelinghuysen scored his first of three goals on an assist from junior Graham Maybell. Minutes later, senior Bryan Annechino took it himself and rifled one in, tying the game halfway through the first quarter.
"We were dodging the short sticks in the beginning, and that really paid off," Frelinghuysen said. "I think we tired them out." For the time being, that held true.
Frelinghuysen snuck in another while teammate Henry West scored his first of the day, ending the first quarter with a 4-2 Darien lead. The Warriors, staying true to their name, hung tough and traded blows with the Blue Wave in a second quarter that saw eight goals combined.
Darien opened up with two in the first minute, but Wilton's Christopher Nugent stopped the bleeding with his first of two goals. Junior Michael Serpa then scored on an assist from Nugent, cutting it to 6-4.
After trading goals, Darien's lead nearly dried up with Serpa's second goal of the day, making it 7-6 with hopes of bringing momentum into halftime.
Darien had other plans while senior Brian Gleason put one in the back of the net with 11 seconds remaining, which proved to be a pivotal goal in the game. With the tally, the Blue Wave crushed any Warrior momentum and brought its lead back up to 8-6 at halftime.
"If you look back, you can't roll the tape backwards, but that would have been the difference," Wiseman said. "They could say the same thing though."
While the first half saw the bulk of the scoring, both defenses buckled down and played a more physical second half. Samuel Somers led the way for the Warriors and, despite the loss, was key to keeping the game close, registering 17 saves on the day.
Wilton then broke the stalemate halfway through the quarter with another goal from Serpa, but Darien's Bobby Nolan put the Warriors back at arm's length, making it 9-7. However, Wilton just wouldn't go away and scored just before the end of the quarter, pulling within one goal entering the final 12 minutes.
"It was a back-and-forth game. They made it close, and in the fourth quarter, it's anybody's game," Brameier said. "It's just a matter of who steps up."
West took that to heart and completed his hat trick on Case Matheis' fourth assist of the game, giving Darien a two-goal advantage with six minutes to go in the game.
After a handful of back-and-forth possessions while the clock wound down, Wilton's Jonathon Andrews made it interesting, scoring with 25 seconds remaining.
With the score now 10-9 and not wanting overtime, Darien fought for control and managed to get the last possession, running out the clock and punching its ticket for the semifinal round against the Rams. In a regular season matchup to begin May, Darien got the best of New Canaan, winning 11-5. The last time they faced each other in the state tournament was the 2008 finals, which Darien won 11-4.
"It's a great rivalry. It should be a fun game to play," West said. "I think we have the edge in the midfield and our defense. If we step up, I think we got them."