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Champs again: Johns on the board twice in Wave’s FCIAC co-title win over Rams

Darien 3, New Canaan 0

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Darien celebrates its first and stand-up winning goal, in the goal, at New Canaan on Tuesday. (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

FIELD HOCKEY

Unlike today’s contest for President — the political posters for which festooned the entrance to New Canaan High School as FCIAC field hockey semifinals spectators shared parking space with many more people turning up to vote — the games played over at Dunning Field would result in more than one winner.

But if Darien was disappointed at having to share titles with anyone else, due to a league decision to go with co-champions after schedules were trashed by Sandy, it was the opposite of disappointment that was written all over Wave co-captain Kat Huber’s face.

“Oh my gosh — I’m so happy!” said Huber after Darien downed New Canaan 3-0 in the FCIAC semis at Dunning Field, for one of those tandem trophies, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. “We try not to think about the whole co-championship thing.”

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Claire Culliton (in white, stick on ball) breaks the ice for a 1-0 lead in the first half. (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

The Wave (14-1 FCIAC), dominating throughout, had two goals from Kyla Johns — in her rookie year and smoking hot going into states — and one from Claire Culliton, who has been lethal with the stick all season.

Hollis Perticone had two assists and senior co-captain Lexi Perticone had one helper, and was named FCIAC Championship Game MVP.

Lexi Perticone indeed was all over it; both ends of the field.

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Lexi Perticone, FCIAC title game MVP. (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

“Last year was devastating,” she said in recalling a five year championship run coming to an end in 2011. “But I mean, we just said, we want to bring it back and today we had it.

“It was a little frustrating with the storm and everything, but we were able to bring it together.”

“We just really wanted to beat New Canaan (11-3-1 FCIAC), and we did it,” said Huber. “And we are so happy as seniors — it’s like the best thing we could have asked for.”

Danica Hornick made five saves, four late standing up with pad saves to keep the Rams scoreless.

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Wave wins! (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

Darien swarmed the front of the cage and Culliton put the ball into an empty net — Rams goalie Emma Ball (12 saves) down and out sprawling to make a stop on the initial shot of a flurry — for 1-0 with 10:58 to go in the first half.

“Everyone was just trying to get it in the goal, and we had like five different shots,” Culliton said. “And I finally just got it in.”

Hollis Perticone had the assist.

“We just needed to score early,” Culliton said. “We knew that they were working really hard. We just had to work harder.”

Johns scored on a bullet after hovering in front for 2-0 with 1:39 left in the half.

Huber made the key pass for the assist.

Hollis Perticone made a stampede-of-one rush to goal on the right side and fed Johns in front for 3-0 with 12:11 on the clock in the second half.

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Hollis Perticone sets up one of Darien’s overwhelming number of corners while NC defenders look on. (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

“She (Johns) just makes the right plays at the right time,” Wave coach Mo Minicus said. “I mean she’s scrappy, you know. She’ll do anything to reach that stick and get it in. And she had two great opportunities that she took advantage of.”

Lexi Perticone had the second helper.

Darien finishes up its FCIAC season and goes into states with steam shooting from its engine.

“Since we are moving into Class L, it’s another whole game,” Huber added. “And we are so excited — we’re so pumped.

“And coming off of this, we are really feeling good going into states.”

Huber was around for several years of the five-year Wave run winning league and state titles, halted with losses in both tournaments last year.

Now, even with this 2012 asterisk stamped championship, Darien can start counting again.

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Kat’s me-wow: “I’m so happy!” says Kat Huber. Can’t you tell? (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

“It feels so good,” Huber said. “We were talking about it, as seniors. And we just wanted to bring it back.”

Darien zipped the ball around the field from the start like it was playing a video game.

“We needed to get our passing game back,” Huber said. “We kind of lost it after some of our recent games. But we got it back.

“We got our switch-of-fields back on and we really performed on that.”

For this Minicus was grateful.

“They played great today,” she said. “The passing game was back, it was awesome.”

New Canaan just had a hard time passing.

Why?

“Defense stepped up, they played great,” Minicus said. “Moved well — it was just a total team effort. Everybody played their hearts out.”

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Claire Culliton (No. 12) on the attack at New Canaan today. (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

Top seed Wilton lost 2-1 in overtime to No. 4 Greenwich in game two of the semis at Dunning, making the Cardinals the other FCIAC co-champions.

“Of course we would love to have a real final,” Lexi Perticone said. “But today, we just brought it as the real final. Because, it was.”

Finding each other’s sticks was as important as finding the net for the Wave.

“That was our plan,” Lexi Perticone added. “We just had to trust each other, use our passing game.”

Forwards finding their way back into the defensive zone was another Darien advantage.

“And it was key that our offensive players played defense,” Lexi Perticone said. “We’ve been playing a lot of teams that have big-ball hits. And so we worked on our free-hit block-ups. And on just really the offense getting back and helping the midfielders and the defense.”

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Co-captains Lexi Perticone (right) and Kat Huber (left) share a moment with the shared 2012 FCIAC Championship trophy. (Darien Times/Steven Buono photo)

On defense, Maggie Wells whacked the ball out of danger as if she was Sandy chopping down trees.

“Yeah, the defense played great today,” Lexi Perticone said. “Maggie, Katie (Shanahan) in the middle, Jackie (Brokaw) on the right.”

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Darien Times Sports Editor since 2000

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