Staples boys soccer falls to Darien in LL semifinal
It wasn't an easy path, but for the first time in school history the Blue Wave boys soccer team is headed to the Class LL semifinals.
Coming into the tournament as the 11th seed the Blue Wave found themselves at a disadvantage, but after a 2-0 win over Staples at home Friday afternoon they now find themselves a win away from the state championship game.
"We're trying to build something," Darien coach Jon Bradley said of a program on the upswing. "In the first year I took over we made the quarters and it's a program that was stuck in a rut for a very long time. Hopefully we can build on this and maybe we can even go and win."
Darien will play the winner of Friday night's quarterfinal between No. 15 Glastonbury and No. 7 Simsbury on Monday or Tuesday.
After needing penalty kicks to defeat Shelton Wednesday night, Darien came out firing, racking up 16 shots to Staples' five. The Blue Wave had a big opportunity to score in the 38th minute when Hunter Kooyman found himself one-on-one with the goalie, but Staple's Noah Schwaeber made a fantastic save.
Kooyman would get his revenge however as in 66th minute he connected on a beautiful shot to the top right corner of the net, giving his team a 2-0 lead and effectively putting a dagger into the Wreckers' hearts.
"I saw I beat the other two players and looked and saw the goalie a bit off his line so I just took the shot for the top right corner," Kooyman said simply.
Darien's first lead came just 2:30 into the second half when captain Henrik Stockinger lofted a ball over two defenders and ultimately the goalie to put the Wave on the board.
"I think overall in the game we were the better the team," Bradley said. "We were unlucky in the first half and obviously I had to rotate players because losing your top scorer was tough (Kai Bjornstad to injury) but I thought we knew how they were going to play."
The Wreckers -- who have played in 18 CIAC title games, winning 10 of them -- came into the tournament as the 19th seed before winning at No. 3 West Haven on Wednesday night, 3-1.
"For a while we didn't even think we were going to be in the FCIACs," Staples coach Dan Woog said of the rollercoaster season. "Our goal is always to win the last game of the season so when we don't we're disappointed; but I couldn't be prouder of our guys, they are class acts. It was a hell of a ride."
For a team not used to being in the position they're in Darien, is taking it one step at a time. Darien's focus shifts to preparing for the semifinals and maybe shocking the state.
"We know that we're good," Kooyman said. "We really think we can go far if we keep playing like a team. We just have to keep mentality focused and we have to physically rest and be ready for whatever's next."
Darien 2, Staples
STAPLES 0 0--0
DARIEN 0 2--2
Records: S: 11-6-2; D: 14-3-2. Goals: D-Henrik Stockinger, Hunter Kooyman. Goalies: S: Noah Schwaeber (8 saves); D--Liam Rischmann (4). Shots: S-5; D-16. Highlights: Darien Rischmann's second shutout in three days puts Darien into the state semifinals for the first time in program history.