Emily Stein managed to make her heroics look simple.
“If she makes it, we win the game,” said Darien girls soccer coach Leigh Parsons of the prelude to Stein’s PK marker that made it a decisive 3-2 in the shootout, after an empty double-OT in the opening round of states at Ridgefield on Friday. “She had a lot of pressure.”
And she had a sure foot.
“She stepped up and slotted it home,” Parsons said, with 25th seed Darien winning 2-1 on the strength of the PK advantage to upset eighth seed Ridgefield and move on to the second round on Monday. “The next thing you know all the girls are running out celebrating.”
Hard work and toughness, it was all there.
We’re fighting and believing.
— Leigh Parsons
Stein held her sights close to the vest.
“She knew where she was going,” Parsons said. “She ran up and (kicked) it with her right foot, to the keeper’s lower left. It was a good goal.”
Ridgefield ends its season at 11-3-3.
The Wave (7-7-3) plays No. 9 host Hamden (12-3-2) in the CIAC Class LL second round 2 p.m. Monday.
“Very simple. The more simple penalties are, the better, for any player,” said Parsons. “A lot goes through your mind. It’s very easy to step up and see that goalie and a big goal. It looks easy to most, but once you get the heavy legs of playing 90 minutes, and players nerves. It’s not easy.
“And for Phoebe (Taylor) to save in the penalty shootout was great.”
The Tigers had a couple of chances in the first overtime to finish it.
Taylor, said no.
And Darien had a good bid on a header from Dillon Schoen with a couple of minutes to go in the second OT.
Darien was up 1-0, on Schoen’s header in the first-half, but with two minutes left in regulation time, Ridgefield tied it up.
“It was one of those things of: will it take the wind out of our sails going into extra time?” Parsons said. “What’s going to happen?”
What happened is that the Wave responded well — especially Taylor.
“She was, unbelievable,” Parsons said. “Making some saves that were just top-drawer. She’s one of the best goalies around, without a doubt.”
Now she’s proven it.
“Over the last few games she’s proved it,” said Parsons. “Her saves were just phenomenal. But it was just a complete team performance.”
Schoen scored off a cross from Kelly Karczewski less than a quarter hour into the match.
“Kelly Karczewski makes a run down the line,” Parsons said. “Then a defender wins it back. But she works hard and battles to get it back.”
Karczewski sailed the ball into the box and Schoen headed it in.
“Great goal,” said Parsons. “We are not the same team as in the regular season.”
The rest of the way it was not an easy puzzle, to ultimately not solve, for the hosts.
“When it was time to battle and hang on our girls showed what they are made of,” Parsons said. “We frustrated them.”
It’s surprising it wasn’t Darien that was frustrated on this far from easy course.
“We faced almost everything you don’t want to face in a game, and still prevailed,” Parsons said. “The last few minutes and they score, and then they are really all over us in overtime. Ridgefield took it to us.”
The Wave had the advantage in the first half, the Tigers were on the prowl in the second.
Wave peaks with PK
Kristy Gilbert took the first shot and scored.
“A good left-footed shot,” said Parsons.
Julia Black went next for Darien and was stopped.
Vanessa Budd followed for DHS, and she was stopped as well.
Taylor made the saves to keep the momentum going, but two got by her.
Karczewski scored Darien’s second goal to be sure to hold on for 2-2.
And the Tigers hit the cross bar with the score locked.
“I always give that to the keeper,” Parsons added.
Stein put it away for the win.
“We came out with a really, really good performance,” Parsons said. “The girls have been working hard over the last three or four weeks to turn it around.”
Knocking off the much higher seed is a far cry from the 1-3-2 way the Wave finished the regular season. Or the way it stumbled through much of its schedule.
“We hit that run during midseason where with some injuries and players playing out of position it was tough for us,” Parsons said. “A few girls really stepped up and played really well. I mean everyone has, but Caylee Waters and Parker Hamill have been playing very, very well.”
It allowed some others to move up into midfield where they are more effective.
“Which is helping us,” Parsons said.
Since losing to St. Joseph, Darien played Greenwich, Warde, Norwalk, and Wilton in a pre-playoffs friendly match, and either won or tied all of them.
“The scrimmage against Wilton was after the big layoff (due to the storm),” Parsons said. “And we were worried about a bit of rust from not playing for two weeks.”
And with Wilton not in Darien’s state class, it worked out for both teams to work out the kinks.
“It really helped the girls and kept the ball rolling,” said Parsons. “It was good for the girls to see that they could play well against teams they’ve lost to this season.
“I believe these girls have the potential to go as far as they want to go.”
Darien is getting more distance from grit than from glitter.
“They’re playing well, but, they’re also able to grind and not play pretty at times,” Parsons said. “And get that result. That’s what you need to do in this league.
“Hard work and toughness, it was all there.
“We’re fighting and believing.”
Ellie Bennett at center back/sweeper is back and strong after needing a cast on her ankle this season early on, and has made one big difference.
“Ellie Bennett plays simple, she gets stuck in,” Parsons said. “And (stopper) Morgan Sawitsky back there was very good. Her distribution is good back there. When she wins it she can distribute. She’s good at winning balls out of the air.”
Across the midfield, Black was on her game.
“Vanessa Budd and Emily Stein in the middle were really good,” said Parsons in running the roster. “Kristy Gilbert was really on form; our left midfielder, our other captain.”
Up top Parsons was impressed with Karczewski and Katy Cronin, Schoen.
“Erin Karczewski got on in midfield,” he said. “Caity Lowden the last few games has come on. She’s giving us the valuable minutes, really helping us.”
Waters at right back and Hamill at left have made a place for themselves.
“They are a big part of why we are where we are right now.”
And they have company after tripping up the Tigers.
“Every girl is a big part of it,” added Parsons.