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Darien Boys Knock Off Rival, Advance in States

DARIEN, Conn. – The feel-good story of the year in boys soccer continues to write new chapters. After improving from just two wins in 2010 to 11 wins this season and the fifth seed in the Class L state tournament, the Darien High School boys soccer team has improbably advanced to the state quarterfinals.

Taking on archrival New Canaan in the second round of the tournament, Darien’s Brennan Branca scored in the 12th minute of the game on a penalty kick after the Rams were called for a handball inside the box. The Blue Wave’s defense held for the final 68 minutes as keeper Jack Fisher made seven dynamic saves to make the single goal stand in a 1-0 victory.

Fisher admitted he did not see the Blue Wave getting this far when the season began. “I knew we had a good squad and I knew we could possibly make it to states, but nothing like this. It’s truly amazing,” he said with a grin. “Everybody played with their hearts today.”

Darien’s defense was the story of the game, forcing New Canaan’s offensive threats Jon-Luke Ferrandino, Steven Valente and Charlie Pickhard to the outside. Interestingly, Fisher’s toughest challenge was defending the direct kicks of his goalkeeping counterpart, Scott Levene. The Rams goalie nearly scored twice on shots from midfield that Fisher had to leap to the top of the net to keep out.

Darien’s tall defenders Eric Kanigan and Elliot Helgans made the Blue Wave box nearly impenetrable. The duo seemed to be there to clear out any New Canaan attempt at an offensive attack.

“We like to get the one-goal lead, and we know with our combination of height and speed in the back we can hold them off,” Kanigan said. “We just clear the ball out. The other team might not call it soccer, but it’s effective.”

It is the first time the Darien boys soccer team has qualified for the state tournament since 2008 and the first time since 1998 that the Blue Wave has advanced this far. Darien is seeking its first-ever trip to the boys soccer finals.

The Blue Wave will take on Bunnell in Stratford on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in the Class L quarterfinals.

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for the latest Main Street Connect coverage of Fairfield County sports. Like The Daily Darien on Facebook .

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