Wilton girls lacrosse goes down fighting in Class L semis

Entering Tuesday night’s Class L semifinal game as the heavy underdog, the Wilton girls lacrosse team gave top-seeded Darien all it could handle at Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

The 13th-seeded Warriors were down by a goal with under 15 minutes left, 4-3, and later used a 3-1 run to get to within two goals in the final minute.

But the Blue Wave (18-1-1) held on for the 8-6 win, advancing to Saturday’s championship game against Fairfield Warde.

The young Warriors, who started five sophomores and three juniors, finished an up-and-down season with a 10-10 record, with three strong performances in the state playoffs.

“I’m so proud of my team, I’m so proud of my seniors,” said head coach Meredith Meyran. “I think defensively we played fantastic. Darien is so talented, it’s just hard to get going against them. They played a great game defensively, as well.”

The Darien’s defense nearly pitched a shutout in the first half. Goalie Carly Schoudel made four saves in the half, while defender Emma Lesko did a great job keeping Wilton’s sophomore standout Eva Greco off the scoreboard. The Warriors were also plagued by six to seven turnovers.

Wilton, however, got a huge game in goal from sophomore Paige Brown, who kept her team close with six first-half saves — most from point-blank range.

Darien got first-half goals from Katherine Cronin at 24:18, Chandler Kirby at 16:41 and Susannah Ropp at 14:07, and appeared poised to take the 3-0 lead into halftime.

But with about 20 seconds left in the half, Rebecca Wistreich collected a loose ball in the midfield, ran it down and behind the Darien goal, and found Margaret Smith open in front for a goal with 3.4 seconds left, making it 3-1 at the half.

The Blue Wave needed only 13 seconds to score off the second-half draw, with Cronin running the ball right to the cage for the goal.

Wistreich answered for Darien at the 22:21 mark, scoring on a free-position shot to cut the lead to 4-2.

Paisley Eagan then made it 4-3 just 41 seconds later, splitting two defenders and bouncing a shot under the crossbar.

Wilton’s bid to tie the game was denied when Schoudel made a clutch save after a strong run and shot by Wistreich with 16:10 left.

Goals by Ropp at 14:41 and Laura Murphy at 12:13 (off a great feed by Kirby) put the Wave up 6-3, and Ropp scored off an explosive move to extend the run to 3-0, making it 7-3 with 10:21 left.

Eagan scored on a free position with 4:17 left, and then won the ensuing draw control and took the ball to the cage for another goal just 13 seconds later, making it 7-5 with 4:04 left.

After a wild scramble, Darien’s Emma Jacques came up with the key draw control, and with the clocking winding down, Wilton was forced to extend its defense. Ropp took advantage to make a clean run to the goal and score, making it 8-5 with 2:17 left.

Darien won the next draw control and continued to run down the clock. With just over a minute to go, Wistreich and Campbell Gulbin combined to force a turnover, and the Warriors took advantage when Greco scored off an Eagan assist to make it 8-6 with 49 seconds left.

Eagan then won her own draw, kept her balance despite being tripped, and out-ran two defenders to the goal. But Daphne Budd was able to disrupt her shot, which had easily handled by Schoudel — essentially ending Wilton’s hopes.

“I’m sad for my seniors that they don’t get another chance to play in the state championship but at the end of the day they left it all out on the field. That’s all I can ask,” said coach Meyran.

Eagan, who led the Warriors with three goals and one assist, was a force all game for Wilton, on both ends.

“As an individual she has the ability to take over a game and we’re really fortunate that we get her back for another two years,” said Meyran of the talented sophomore. “It shows that the future is bright for this program.”

Wistreich, a junior, had a goal and assist, and led the Warriors in groundballs with five.

Greco, another outstanding sophomore, added one goal, as did Margaret Smith, a junior.

Sydney Brant, a junior, had three draw controls for the Warriors, with one each by Smith and Eagan.

Brown had 13 saves in goal, in an amazing performance.

Ropp had a team-high four goals for Darien, with fellow seniors Kirby and Cronin scoring two goals each. Schoudel, a junior, finished the game with five saves.

The Blue Wave finished with a 31-15 advantage in total shots.

“I thought we played well on defense. We didn’t finish our shots on offense. Paige was on fire. She had a great game. She made it difficult for us,” said Darien head coach Lisa Lindley, who used her team’s depth to good use to propel the key 3-0 run in the second half that gave Darien a four-goal cushion.

“We started mixing it up in the midfield, getting some fresh legs in, and I think that made a difference.”

Notes: It was the final game for four Wilton senior starters — defenders Gulbin, Ella Mannix and Maddie Duffy, and attacker Lilla Seymour; along with fellow seniors Olivia Phelan, Haley Howard and Lauren White.