DARIEN, Conn. – Since the first practice of the season, first-year Darien High School girls basketball coach Katie Lauten stressed defense — and the Blue Wave have gotten the message.
Darien has won six straight games, catapulted into contention for a Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference playoff spot and looks likely to win some games postseason games next month. And it is the Wave’s defense that will carry them.
“Since the beginning, we’ve focused on defense,’’ Lauten said. “It has just gotten better and better as the season has gone along. We know if we’re going to beat a team, we have to know what defense we can use against them and try to make it work.”
Darien (10-4 overall, 9-3 in the league) made an opening statement in its first game of the season with a 55-42 win over Wilton. Since then, Darien has held five teams to 40 or fewer points. In Friday’s 45-30 win over Staples, the Blue Wave allowed Staples just two first-quarter points.
Darien is in seventh place in the race for one of the eight conference playoff berths with six regular season games remaining.
Lauten played at Wilton and was an assistant to Ed Huydic at Staples and Kim Palmer in New Canaan before taking over as the head coach in Darien. She also coached for five years in the travel program for the Darien YMCA.
In Darien’s win over Staples, the Blue Wave looked like a vintage Wreckers team with their commitment to defense. Huydic’s teams have been a perennial state playoff team with that approach, and Lauten looks to follow suit.
Besides her defense first attitude, Lauten also brought a spark that has energized the program.
“She’s really outgoing, and she knows how to coach,’’ senior Meg Marren said. “She gives us a lot of practice, and she’s really committed to it. I think we work a lot better as a team.”
Lauten replaced Gary Peterson, who won 36 games in his three seasons. She teaches at St. Mark’s Nursery School in New Canaan and played basketball and lacrosse at Manhattanville College. She also played soccer in Wilton. In basketball, she earned third team all-conference honors as a junior and senior.
Now she’s making her mark as a coach. “This team responds well to everything,’’ Lauten said. “Everything we throw at them, they’ve taken and about made it their own. I like getting a squad, seeing what they’re good at and then going from there. I don’t come in with a particular system. They’re fast, energetic and have some height as well.”
Lauten’s team is built for the future, too. Darien has three key seniors, but some juniors and sophomores are getting playing time. The Blue Wave will get a good test of how they stack up when they visit undefeated Danbury on Tuesday night.
“In the past five games, our defense has played well and it’s really paid off,’’ Marren said. “Hopefully we can keep it going.”