Back on top of Class L, Darien completes wire-to-wire reign atop GameTimeCT poll

A glance at the record suggests this wasn’t the dominant, unbeatable Darien boys lacrosse team that the Blue Wave have sometimes been at times the past few seasons. And that’s probably fair.

The record also probably suggests it wasn’t a special season, and that’s probably unfair. Even at 17-5, with the most losses in a Darien season in six years, this Blue Wave team built off their wins and off their losses to become state champions once again.

They’re the No. 1 team in the GameTimeCT poll, getting 14 out of 15 first-place votes, back on top a year after falling to Ridgefield in the CIAC Class L final to end a 76-game winning streak.

“We’ve had some ups and downs,” junior defender Sam Cragin said after the Blue Wave beat Wilton 13-3 in the Class L final on Saturday at McMahon. “We kept the mantra of ‘End the season in a pile.’ ”

And that’s what they did at Jack Casagrande Field, the same spot where, on May 21, Wilton beat Darien 4-3 in the FCIAC semifinal, the Blue Wave’s fifth loss.

They also fell to Manhasset (N.Y.), Seton Hall Prep (N.J.), St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) and Brunswick, among the top programs in the nation.

“We’ve been talking all along: The losses during the regular season, no one likes to lose, but they’re preparing you for this moment,” Blue Wave coach Jeff Brameier said Saturday.

“If you end a season in a pile, the summer’s great. The rest of the year’s great. Last year, we were undefeated coming into this game, and we didn’t finish the way we should’ve, so we had a pretty lousy summer. Which would you rather do? I’d rather do this one.”

While Darien led every poll this season, a unanimous No. 1 for seven consecutive weeks in-season, 25 teams received at least one top-10 vote over the spring.

Ridgefield got one first-place vote in the preseason poll. New Canaan got three and New Fairfield got two in the poll before the state tournament.

New Fairfield also received one in the final poll, finishing second. The Rebels went 22-1, losing only to St. Anthony’s. New Fairfield was the only CIAC team that didn’t lose to another CIAC team, beating No. 8 Glastonbury and co-No. 6 Staples.

“I feel like we went out and tried to get the best teams we possibly could,” Rebels coach Marty Morgan said after his team beat Weston 18-2 in the Class M final, before Darien’s game. “It’s hard. People say ‘Why don’t you play New Canaan, why don’t you play Darien?’ And they’re in a tough spot, too. ‘Why play New Fairfield? They’re a good team this year, we’re going to give up playing a team we’ve been playing for 10-plus years, one of the best in the country,’ and then they might not get them back. I totally understand.

“We were fortunate to get the games we did get, and we played our butts off. That’s all I could ask. I was hoping the kids made their case as far as where they stood in the state of Connecticut as far as playing good teams. To me, they’re as good as anybody.”

There were ties at two positions. There was nearly a tie for 10th, but Class S champion St. Joseph narrowly got the nod there by one point over Guilford.

New Canaan and Fairfield Prep tied for fourth behind Wilton. Staples tied for sixth with the team it knocked out of the Class L tournament, Ridgefield, last year’s champion, which had been ranked second most of the season.

But it was Darien, as it has been so often, on top in the end, a champion 12 times since 2005.

“Everything is in preparation to get to this moment and win at this big stage,” Brameier said. “We’ve been at this moment quite a few times the past 10-15 years, and when we get here, we usually do pretty well.”;