The atmosphere was electric, the intensity was high and the action was outstanding when national lacrosse powers Brunswick School and Darien met Thursday night at crowded Cosby Field in an eagerly anticipated game for both programs.
Riding the emotion of their pregame Senior Night celebration and the support of their home crowd, the Bruins bolted out to seven-goal first quarter lead, but the Blue Wave seized the momentum in the second half, capitalizing on several man-up opportunities.
Yet that seven-goal cushion the Bruins built early on, proved to be the difference-maker.
Junior midfielder Tomas Delgado registered two goals and two assists, while sophomore midfielder Hudson Hausmann and junior attack Jackson Wolfram each tallied twice to help propel Brunswick past Darien, 12-10.
Ranked No. 2 in the Inside Lacrosse Top 25 Power Rankings and second in the USA Lacrosse National rankings, Brunswick kept its perfect record intact, improving its mark to 11-0 with the victory.
Brunswick held a 7-0 lead after the first quarter, then entered halftime with an 8-1 advantage. They headed into the fourth quarter on top, 11-4, before the Blue Wave rallied in the final frame.
“It was a really exciting game, a tale of two halves,” Brunswick coach David Bruce said. “The fourth quarter really hurt us. Darien put up a fight and took advantage of what was given to them – a lot of extra man and they capitalized on them.”
The Bruins were difficult for Darien to contend with in the first half, especially the opening quarter, when it efficiently ran its settled offense and limited the visitors’ offensive opportunities.
“That’s our capability and it would be nice if we can play a couple of halves together like that, but Darien is a really good team and we were lucky to build that early lead, otherwise I don’t know if we would have ended up the winner at the end,” Bruce said.
Senior attackman/captain Henry Caponiti registered one goal and one assist, and junior Hunter Spiess had one goal and one assist for the Bruins, who received one goal apiece from senior Owen Guest, junior Leo Hoffman, senior Chris Gaine and sophomore Payton Anderson.
Darien, which has a 10-2 record following the loss, was paced by hat tricks by senior attack Matthew Minicus and senior midfielder Christian Alliegro, who helped the Blue Wave cut into Brunswick’s lead.
“It was good, we started off really hot in the first quarter and went up a few goals in the first quarter,” said Caponiti, who will play lacrosse at Georgetown next year. “It was a great win for our seniors, but we played a little sloppy at times, especially in the fourth quarter. We have to be more disciplined, especially in the fourth quarter.”
“With these really good teams like Darien, they want to beat us, so we have to have the mindset that any given day we can slip up,” Caponiti continued.
Brunswick, which edged Darien on the road in last season’s matchup, 9-8, took a 1-0 lead on a transition goal from Guest with 8:19 left in the first quarter. Delgado put a low shot past Darien senior goalie Cameron Weibel, making it 2-0 at the 7:30 mark.
After Bruins senior Duke-bound defender Charlie Johnson gathered a ground ball, halting a Blue Wave possession, the home team tallied again, with Hausmann converting a perimeter, giving Brunswick a 3-0 advantage with 4:49 to go in the opening quarter.
Winning one of the eight faceoffs he won in the first half, Andrew Greenspan gave the Bruins another possession, which led to a goal by Hoffman and a 4-0 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Anderson, Spiess and Gaine each tallied during the final two minutes of play in the first frame, capping the Bruins impressive first frame and giving the squad a 7-0 advantage.
“We came out flying with a great first quarter,” said Bruins senior defender/captain Will Donovan, who will compete at Notre Dame next season. “We looked great in the first half. Everyone was fired up, there was an awesome atmosphere out here. That first quarter – we have to play four of those first quarters.”
A goal from Wolfram off a Delgado pass put the Bruins ahead, 8-1, heading into halftime. Darien closed to within 8-4 with goals by senior Riley Strub and sophomore Porter Barnett early in the third quarter, but Brunswick regained its seven-goal edge at 11-4, getting goals from Hausmann, Caponiti and Spiess.
Meanwhile, senior goalie/captain Luke Schlank (6 saves) made a pair of key saves during the third quarter for the Bruins.
“It was a lot of fun to play in,” Schlank said of the much-anticipated matchup. “The first half was a very good half. We were preaching it was a 0-0 game coming out in the second half, but we had too many penalties. We did our best to try to stop them on man-down, they had some goals, but we have a lot to clean up to finish the season strong and come out on top.”
The Blue Wave cut into the Bruins’ lead in the fourth quarter due to several penalties by the home team. Darien capitalized on several man-up chances and outscored Brunswick, 6-1, in the final quarter. But the Bruins held on for the win.
“We came out really strong, I was really happy with the way the first quarter went,” said Johnson, one of the Bruins’ captains. “It wasn’t good enough the next 36 minutes. We’ve got a lot to work on and the film is going to show that. I’m excited to go back and look at the film. I think this game will light a fire under us to play the full 48 minutes. Watching this and seeing what we did wrong will help us develop.”
“If we want to be the No. 1 team in the country and be undefeated, we have to play the full 48 minutes and stay composed the entire time,” Johnson added.
Indeed, the Bruins drew plenty of additional inspiration from their Senior Night ceremony.
“We were able to celebrate all the kids who have done so much for our program,” Johnson said. “That really helped put the burners on in the first quarter.”
Said Caponiti: “It was definitely an awesome crowd for Senior Night. It was awesome to get a good crowd – it was a great environment and a great win for the school.”
Brunswick hopes to up its mark to 12-0 when it hosts Westminster School on Saturday.
“Our chemistry is off the charts,” We have some of our biggest tests coming up, so we have to make sure we’re in top shape.”
Following their Saturday game against Westminster, the Bruins will host Avon Old Farms School on Wednesday.
“It’s always great not to feel perfect after a win – there’s stuff we need to work on,” Bruce said. “You walk away from a win and you played perfectly, where do you start next week in practice? We played well enough to defeat a really good team. The community vibe was awesome – two of the best teams in Connecticut.”
Donovan was recently selected to play in the Under Armour All-America Senior Game.
“It’s an honor, such an honor,” Donovan said. “It’s something that I’ve dreamed up for a while, so obviously, I’m very happy to get that honor.”