DARIEN -- Perception can be an awful burden.
"Our program has been on such a run since 2005. We are expected year in and year out to compete and WIN these type of games," said Darien High School boys lacrosse head coach Jeff Brameier. "It's been a long time to look at this point on the calendar (April 20) and see four losses in our record. I'm not used to it. The kids aren't used to it. The town isn't used to it. With reputation comes pressure. We ALWAYS get our opponent's best effort."
That was indeed the case Saturday as longtime rival Yorktown (NY) reeled off 11 consecutive goals on its way to an 11-5 victory over Darien at the Blue Wave's football stadium in the fifth annual Tom Lener Memorial Cup clash.
The defeat leaves Darien at 4-4 overall, with road losses to FCIAC archrival New Canaan (9-4) as well as nationally ranked powers Manhasset (N.Y.) (10-9), Niskayuna (N.Y.) (14-9) and now Yorktown.
It's not the end of the world with eight contests left in a busy regular season.
But it is a bit disconcerting to see a Darien squad win almost no faceoffs, go scoreless on the man advantage while watching Yorktown (7-1) turn a 3-0 second-quarter deficit into a 5-3 halftime edge, a 9-3 lead after three quarters and 11-3 with 11:40 left to play.
"We just have to tip our caps to Yorktown. They have a lot of offensive weapons (Nick Mariano, Brian Prestreau three goals each)," Brameier said. "We just made crucial mistakes. This year our lineup has questions. We have two sets of attackmen and two sets of midlines we're looking at. We're playing a freshman on defense. This group is still searching for its niche."
Yes, all-everything Case Matheis is at Duke, but Darien lost its entire defense from last season as well.
The plan for Brendan Hathaway to be the Blue Wave's top faceoff man ended when he broke his leg in the FCIAC ice hockey playoffs this winter.
"The bottom line is we're not as bad as 4-4. But we're not as good as we thought we'd be," Brameier said. "It's a learning process. Our staff needs to teach more. We need to make adjustments. The schedule (eight games in 17 days) has mitigated against that. Playing smart, playing together and making smart decisions at full speed takes time."
Phil Huffard registered 12 saves in net for Darien while Austin Graham was sparkling with 11 saves for Yorktown.
"We are playing well. It's nice to come to Darien's home field and win. It doesn't happen often," Yorktown head coach Dave Marr said. "I'm fortunate in that this group has some four-year starters to lean on. With public school athletic programs, there are going to be ebbs and flows of talent. We've had the occasional rough year as well. It takes time for some teams to find their legs and find the right combinations."
The reality is that people rarely recall regular season records. And Darien's long fabled tradition has been built on playoff performance.
"We have to keep working. We will get the chance to right the ship," Brameier said. "Be on point at playoff time. We have the talent in this lockerroom for us to make a run."
"We have to keep our composure and bounce back," Huffard said. "We have to develop a tough skin."
YORKTOWN (NY) 11, Darien 5
YORKTOWN (NY) 0 5 4 2 --11
DARIEN 2 1 0 2 --5
Records: Yorktown 7-1; Darien 4-4.
Scoring: Y -- Danny Manning 2 goals, 2 assists ; Nick Bonitatibus 1g, 2a; Connor Vercruysse 1g, 1a; Nick Mariano 3g, 1a; Brian Prestreau 3g, 1a; Luke Palmadesso 1a ; Billy Strassman 1g. D-- Kyle Cornell 2g, Harry Gillespie 1g; Kevin Seiler 1g; James Lyons 1g; Will Hamernick 1a; Peter Lindley 1a. Goalies: Y -- Austin Graham (11 saves). D -- Phil Huffard (12 saves).