Darien dominates North Haven to advance to second round of State tournament
DARIEN - The Darien boys soccer team tangled with an unfamiliar foe Friday afternoon at home against North Haven, but the game was never in doubt as the Blue Wave dominated from start to finish en route to a 3-0 Class L State tournament opening round victory.
For Darien, the tournament's No. 5 seed, the win over No. 28 North Haven sets up a second round matchup on Monday at 2 p.m. against the winner of No. 12 New Canaan and No. 21 Lyman Hall.
"It was a good way to start the State tournament," Fisher said. "They had some solid defenders and a few solid forwards, but we came out on top. They started strong, but we pushed back."
Darien quickly established a decided time of possession advantage which lasted throughout the game. With 23:38 remaining in the first half, Collier gave his team a 1-0 advantage after beating North Haven (5-8-4) goalie Chris Musco.
Darien had several other scoring opportunities in the first half, but it wasn't until 35:18 remained in the second half that the Blue Wave managed to double their lead. Taking a corner kick, Darien's Jonathan Gill sent a long ball toward the North Haven net, where Hubbard got the ball into the back of the goal with a diving header.
Darien (12-2-3) closed out the scoring less than seven minutes later. Daniel Rizzuto sent a lead pass to Spencer McMullin, who quickly tapped the ball to Highton. Highton blasted a shot from short range to put the game out of reach at 3-0.
Darien outshot North Haven 15-6, and coach Federico Fiondella didn't seem to believe that his team had played up to its full potential.
"We didn't really put it together today, and I was disappointed in how we played," Fiondella said. "We just struggled. I don't think this is the North Haven team that played throughout the course of the year."
The three-goal cushion allowed Darien coach Jon Bradley to empty his bench and get some reserves a taste of State tournament play. With 1:30 remaining, backup goalie Jeff Sload came up with a diving save to his left to rob North Haven's Cesar Meneses to preserve the shutout.
The prospect of meeting rival New Canaan in the second round is an exciting one for Darien, which tied the Rams 1-1 when the teams met in the regular season in Darien on Oct. 10.
"They have a great team, great kids. We'll probably end up playing New Canaan, but either way it's going to be a great game," Fisher said. "We'll have home field advantage and a bunch of fans, so it's going to be a good time."
NORTH HAVEN 0 0--0
DARIEN 1 2--3
Records: North Haven (5-8-4); Darien (12-2-3).
Goals: D--Matthew Collier, Geoffrey Hubbard, Ben Highton. Assists: D--Jonathan Gill, Daniel Rizzuto. Goalies: NH--Chris Musco (6 saves); D--Jack Fisher (4), Jeff Sload (2). Shots: NH--7; D--15.