Coming off an emotional quarterfinal victory over Wilton Monday, the New Canaan girls lacrosse team had little time to prepare for red-hot Darien. From the early minutes of the game, during which Darien took a 4-0 lead, it appeared a letdown was in the works. New Canaan fought its way back, but the deficit was too much to overcome. Darien took the state semifinals match, 9-7.
"Darien came out fired up and played harder than we did," New Canaan head coach Kristin Wood said. "I think it was exciting to go into Wilton and beat them there. And then I think it was hard to get up again."
New Canaan struggled with ground balls, rebounds and second chances all evening, appearing fatigued from the showdown with Wilton. As dominant as the Rams played on Monday, they appeared completely outmatched two days later.
Darien's defense might just have played the best game of the season against New Canaan's high-flying offensive duo, Olivia Hompe and Sarah Mannelly. The Blue Wave clogged the front of the net, forcing New Canaan to make harmless shots from the outside.
New Canaan cut Darien's lead to 5-4 just two minutes into the second half, but Darien would never allow the Rams to tie. Hardison gave Darien an 8-5 lead with 9:21 left to play, setting up a nail-biting finish.
Olivia Hompe finally got on the scorecard with 5:44 remaining and pulled her team within one goal just 42 seconds later. Emily Stein was nearly perfect on draws for Darien, winning four of the last five in the game. Hardison put the game away with an insurance goal with 4:26 left.
New Canaan had two more chances to keep the game close, but Darien goalie Claire Dickson stonewalled the Rams. Mannelly rushed the net on a late breakaway, but was denied on a low save by Dickson.
"Everything bounced their way tonight. You name it, they did it, we didn't," Wood said. "But it was a great year. These girls really grew as a lacrosse team and as people."
New Canaan finishes the 2011 season at 12-7.
Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for the latest MSC-Fairfield County sports.
Like The Daily New Canaan on Facebook.