DARIEN -- For the entire season, the Darien girls lacrosse team had hoped to reach the peak of their potential in the postseason.

After winning the FCIAC title the Blue Wave set their sights on their first Class L championship after moving up from M. Following a dominant 19-point victory in the opening round, Darien was looking for an equally impressive performance in the quarterfinals against No.7 Simsbury. No. 2 Darien got off to an uncharacteristically slow start in the first half, but came out firing on all cylinders after halftime for an 18-4 win.

For Darien (15-1) head coach Lisa Lindley the first half was certainly not one she'd put in her teams highlight reel.

"We were flat in the first half and played sloppy with far too many careless mistakes," Lindley said. "To be honest it was the worst 25 minutes I've seen them play all season. But after some personnel adjustments at halftime we were able to pad our lead a little which forced Simsbury to change their approach on offense."

Holding a modest 5-2 lead at the half, Darien co-captain Jena Fritts (3 goals) wasted little time lighting the scoreboard for the home team as the senior ripped a shot past Trojan goalie Grace McCann only 27 seconds in. The score ignited a 12-minute, 8-1 a run by the Blue Wave. Taylor Hardison (4 goals) and Caroline Benitez (2 goals, assist) score two goals each during the decisive stretch. Simsbury briefly interupted the surge when Tess Mackay scored her third goal of the game for the visitors, but Darien was undeterred, finishing the contest with five unanswered goals.

"We really didn't take care of the ball in the first half and knew that we simply weren't making smart decisions," Fritts said. "We realized that we needed to pick up the intensity and that we had to fight to get the ball in the net. Our defense did an amazing job on their end creating turnovers and from that we were able to execute an effective transition offense."

The defense that Fritts spoke so highly of was lead by goalie Caylee Waters (10 saves), who gave Simsbury fits all afternoon. The senior net minder headlines a defensive unit that has only allowed six goals over the last 100 minutes of Class L tournament play to complement an offense, which has scored 39 times in that same span.

"The key to our success is that we play as a cohesive unit that communicates with one another really well," Waters said. "Our team plays as a whole with the defense and offense definitely feeding off one another."

The Blue Wave will face off against Hall in the semifinals on Tuesday with the time and site to be determined. But if they keep playing like they have in these first two rounds, the FCAIC champs have little doubt who will be raising the Class L plaque.

"All season long we tried to get to the point where were performing at our best on both ends of the field and I think we're there right now," Fritts said. "If we keep playing at this level I don't think we can be beat."

Darien 18, Simsbury 4


DARIEN 5 13--18

Scoring: S--Tess Mackay (3g), Natalie Lech (1g); D--Emily Stein (4g), Taylor Hardison (3g, 3a), Jena Fritts (3g), Mariah Matheis (2g, 1a), Caroline Benitez (2g, 1a), Anna Moorhead (2g), Dillon Schoen (1g,2a), Hollis Perticone (1g,1a). Shots: D 27; S n/a Goalies: D Caylee Waters (10 saves); S Grace McCann n/a