Darien clinches spot in state tournament on final day of regular season
DARIEN -- Mission accomplished for the Darien boys soccer team.
It took until the final day of the regular season, a 4-1 triumph at home against Bassick, but the Blue Wave are going back to the Class L state tournament for the third consecutive season.
"As a captain, I feel like I would have let my team down if we didn't make states and cut that streak off, so it's a great feeling," Darien captain Graham Helgans said. "I think we can actually make a real good run. We're going to catch our breath, nurse some injuries and I think we'll do real good in the state tournament."
At first glance, Darien's 6-8-2 record isn't all that imposing, but given its 0-4 start to the season, its enormous graduation losses and the conference it plays in, and the Blue Wave's ability to scratch and claw their way back to the postseason is eye-opening.
"We got our act together in the second half," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "It's good for the program to keep making the state tournament. We started 0-4 and then we picked up 14 out of 24 points in a tough league."
Additionally, this is the same program that posted a two-win season as recently as 2010. In the three years that have followed, Darien has posted a combined regular season record of 25-17-6, won three state tournament games and made an appearance in the 2011 FCIAC tournament.
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A win on Tuesday against Bassick (1-14-1) was anything but a sure thing after a scoreless first half. Darien was unable to convert its scoring opportunities while getting robbed by Bassick goalie Dhanraj Mattra on a few others. "We had the same circumstances against Trinity when we only scored in the last two minutes of the game," Helgans said. "Coach sat us down (at halftime) and said someone's got to pick it up and be the leader. You would expect a couple kids, but everyone came out firing and we had a great second half."
The Blue Wave needed at least one goal in the next 40 minutes to keep their season alive. They got four.
Less than three minutes into the second half, Darien was awarded a penalty kick which was to be taken by Alexei Gunya, who went on to score two goals.
"I kind of just whistled to myself because I didn't want to over think it," Gunya said. "There was a lot of pressure. (Making the state tournament) is a big accomplishment for our team. Hopefully we can take it a little further than we did last year."
Just over two minutes later, Darien doubled its lead on a long free kick by Joshua Zavala, whose ball was deflected by a Bassick defender and into the back of the net to give Darien a two-goal lead.
Darien's final two goals were scored by Gunya and Kai Bjonrstad for the 4-0 lead. Bassick was later awarded a penalty kick and Mattra took the shot and scored.
Darien has quite a bit of time on its hands before the state tournament, which starts in approximately two weeks.
"We'll take a couple days off to recharge the batteries and basically some fine-tuning," Bradley said. "We'll work on stuff that you don't really get a chance to work on during the season. We'll see who we have to play, couple days off and let's get ready for that."
DARIEN 4, BASSICK 1
BASSICK................................... 0 1--1
DARIEN..................................... 0 4--4
Records: Bassick 1-14-1; Darien 6-8-2. Goals: B--Dhanraj Mattra; D--Alexei Gunya 2, Kai Bjornstad. Goalies: B--Mattra (12 saves); D--Liam Rischmann (6), Peter Trismen (2). Shots: B--11; D--25. Highlights: Darien goes to state tournament for third straight season.