After watching North Carolina-bound junior goalie Caylee Waters steal the show for much of the game with one tremendous save after another, New Canaan standout Olivia Hompe knew precisely what to do when the opportunity presented itself in a big spot Wednesday afternoon.
"Just let it rip," Hompe said.
And that's exactly what the Princeton-bound midfielder did with 4:44 remaining, firing the game-winning shot into the back of net as New Canaan rallied from a three-goal second-half deficit to knock off rival Darien and make an early-season statement in a thrilling FCIAC showdown at Blue Wave Stadium.
Hompe finished with five goals and three assists for the unbeaten Rams (7-0), who held the Blue Wave (4-2) to just one goal in the final 22 minutes.
"(Waters) is a fantastic goalie so we had to stay calm and not get frustrated," Hompe said. "In my time here we had never beaten Darien in lacrosse, so this was definitely one of our majors goals this season."
Senior Kristine Ryan ignited the Rams' comeback off a feed from Hompe with 12:41 remaining, cutting the deficit to 7-5.
Hompe scored off a free position less than two minutes later, and then tied the contest by shaking three defenders before ripping in a goal at the 6:48 mark.
Boston College-bound senior Sarah Mannelly, who would make a big impact on the outcome down the stretch, the gave New Canaan its first lead of the day with 5:40 left.
Darien quickly answered as as Kristen Gilbert scored 35 seconds later off a pass from Dillon Schoen to tie the game again at 8-8.
The Blue Wave gained possession off the next draw, but Mannelly knocked the ball loose and got it ahead to Hompe for the lead.
A key play followed as New Canaan won the ensuing draw and burned nearly three minutes off the clock in the offensive zone before Gilbert intercepted a pass to give Darien hope with 1:45 to go.
As the Wave worked the ball around for a shot, Mannelly again made a big defensive play, knocking the ball from the stick of Taylor Hardison and scooping it up to regain possession.
An errant pass in the offensive end gave the ball back to Darien with 41 seconds left, but New Canaan's Bea Eppler and Isabel Taben managed to knock it loose again with 30 seconds to go. From there, the Rams ran the clock down and then stormed the center of the field to revel in their biggest victory of the season.
"I just told the girls we set the bar," New Canaan coach Kristin Wood said, "Now we have to rise to the occasion."
Stanford-bound goalie Elizabeth O'Sullivan stopped seven shots for the Rams, who were led defensively by the likes of Julia Tuttle, Wheatley Raabe, Brianna McEwan and Kelly Armstrong.
Gilbert powered the Blue Wave with four goals, while sophomore Emily Stein, a Northwestern commit, and Schoen each scored twice. Emily Tropsa and Vanessa Budd, who shadowed Hompe and Mannelly most of the way, and Ellie Bennett keyed the defensive effort for Darien.
Waters, who stopped numerous shores off free positions and from point-blank range, made 13 saves for darien, which was coming off an 18-7 loss to Long Island power Garden City, the top-ranked in the MSG Varsity Tri-State poll.
"We didn't finish shots and had too many turnovers in the midfield," Blue Wave coach Lisa Lindley said. "I look at it like this is the first round. If I had my choice, I'd rather lose now than the next time we see them (in the postseason)."