Darien pulls away to beat Ridgefield in FCIAC girls lax finals

Making its first-ever appearance in the conference finals, the Ridgefield High girls lacrosse team trailed top-seed and prohibitive favorite Darien by just two goals early in the second half.

And then the Blue Wave demonstrated why they are unbeaten against Connecticut opponents and ranked 10th in the country this season.

Dominating the draw controls, Darien scored eight unanswered goals and went on to defeat sixth-seed Ridgefield, 17-7, in the FCIAC championship game Wednesday night at Norwalk High School.

[To watch the HAN Network's broadcast of the game, click here.]

It was the sixth straight conference title for the Blue Wave, who improved their record to 16-3 going into the state tournament.

Coming off a first-ever victory over New Canaan in the semifinals, Ridgefield looked to slay another giant Wednesday. Undaunted by Darien's pedigree — and seemingly removed from the memory of a 16-6 regular-season loss — the Tigers hung with the Blue Wave through the first half.

Caroline Curnal controlled the opening draw and Ridgefield applied immediate pressure. After seeing several point-blank shots saved or fired off-target, the Tigers took a 1-0 lead when freshman Caitlin Slaminko scored on a feed inside from Curnal.

Darien got the next two goals, but Ridgefield drew even on Fair Smith's goal (assisted by Slaminko) with 15:50 left in the opening half.

The Blue Wave then went on another two-goal run before Curnal won the ensuing draw and Annie Hage fed Maeve Tobin for a goal off a free position, pulling Ridgefield within 5-3 with just over 10 minutes remaining.

Darien again responded with two consecutive goals and could have added a third if not for a great save by Ridgefield freshman goalie Lexi Held. The Tigers capitalized on Held's denial, as back-to-back goals from Slaminko (Julia Realander assist) and Caeleigh Tannian trimmed Darien's lead to 7-5 with 33 seconds left in the half.

The Blue Wave then controlled the daw, leading to Ashley Humphrey's goal with eight seconds to go that gave Darien an 8-5 halftime lead.

Ridgefield started strongly in the second half, as Slaminko fired in her third goal of the game to make it 8-6 with 23:19 to play in the contest.

That, however, would be the last Ridgefield goal for 16 minutes.

Several halftime adjustments — using new offensive sets and inserting a much taller player (Katie Ramsey) to negate Curnal's height advantage on draws — were keys in an eight-goal scoring spree that pushed Darien's lead to 16-6.

Ridgefield finally ended its drought when Cate Costigan scooped up the rebound of Lucie Picard's free-position shot and scored with 7:18 remaining.

But with Darien continuing to win the draw controls, the Tigers had no route to a late comeback. The Blue Wave finished the scoring on a goal with just over two minutes left, and the Darien players and their fans were soon able to start celebrating a sixth straight FCIAC title.

Notes: Emma Jacques paced Darien with five goals. Chrissy Fiore and Ashley Humphrey each added four goals and Nicole Humphrey had two goals.

Darien goalie Carly Schoudel made 11 saves and was named the Most Valuable Player.

Held finished with 10 saves in goal for Ridgefield, which is now 14-5 entering the Class L state tournament.