Coming into the season, the Darien field hockey team had a lot of new faces in new places, and hadn’t quite found the chemistry it’s become known for over the years.
After a 6-0 shutout win over the rival New Canaan Rams on Monday at DHS, it’s clear the Blue Wave is again ready for prime time.
“I’ve always said it was going to be a work in progress,” head coach Mo Minicus said. “We graduated 13 seniors, 8 or 9 of whom started, and it’s new players and new chemistry. It’s figuring out the best combination. We were going to get there, it was just a matter of figuring it out and we’re at the point now where we have figured it out.
Senior co-captain Bridget Mahoney started the scoring as the Wave (9-2-0-0 overall, 7-1-0-0 FCIAC) built a 3-0 lead in the first 12 minutes and rolled to the win. The fast start put the Rams in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
“It’s definitely great to start so well,” Darien senior co-captain Shea van den Broek, who had a goal and two assists, said. “We always need that first push to get us going so that was really good.”
For New Canaan (6-3-1-0, 6-2-0-1), there were positives after the bad start. The Rams played solidly through the midfield and were able to generate steady offensive pressure through most of the second half. They also held an 8-3 advantage in penalty corners, but were unable to break through for a goal.
“Darien’s a good team,” New Canaan head coach Kelly Marks said. “This was a big test for us to see where we’re at and six goals is tough. I think they still played pretty well. Even though we were down 6-0, I don’t think they ever felt like they were ever really out of the game. They kept playing like they still had a chance and they still wanted it, so that’s all I can really ask for.”
The Wave went to work quickly and first hit the cage when Molly Hellman sent a pass from the baseline in front to Mahoney, and Mahoney fired it past goalie Emily Gaeta (6 savs) at the 2:50 mark.
Darien then scored on a penalty corner at 4:01, with Lily Kulesz starting and ending the play. Kulesz inserted the ball on the corner, with senior co-captain Katie Elders receiving the pass. Elders dished it off to van den Broek to her left, and van den Broek sent it up to Kulesz for the finish.
Van den Broek then scored at 6:49, ending a scrum in the New Canaan circle to make it 3-0.
“That’s hard for anyone,” Marks said of Darien’s quick start. “That’s why I tell them every time you go out, you want to go in the first five minutes because that sets a tone. Darien did that, they scored in the first five minutes, and that set the tone. For us, it’s how do we get that back?”
The Wave scored its next two goals in traffic in the Rams’ circle, making it 4-0 at halftime and 5-0 midway through the second half.
“We got three or four in the first half and I told them, you guys are getting the garbage goals,” Minicus said. “Who cares how the ball gets in the net? She goes down and there’s a lot of activity in front of the goalie, just stay low, keep your stick down and push it in. Keep it simple.”
New Canaan was able to create opportunities with strong play in the midfield, led by senior co-captains Brielle Connelly and Celia Sokolowski, junior Estelle Asker and sophomore Marlee Smith, but couldn’t find the mark.
Darien received nice performances from goalies Catherine Vogt and Monisha Akula, who combined to make 4 saves while filling in for injured starter Grace Aronshon.
“I’m so proud of them,” Minicus said. “Monisha has been a goalie for a long time, and Catherine picked it up last year, and they both just work hard. Monisha’s been the JV goalie but her technique is so sound; and Catherine is just a little fireplug and will do anything to save a ball. So it’s a nice little combination and we’ll probably split them because they’re both great in different ways.”
The Wave’s final tally came on a nice give-and-go in transition, with van den Broek dishing off to Hellman with 1:38 remaining.
“Our finishing ability has gotten so much better throughout the season,’ van den Broek said. “Overall, there are still things we could’ve improved on throughout the game. Other than finishing it, like on our passes we had a lack of connections, and our defensive stops, so overall we have ways to improve, but it’s great that we were able to score so much.”
Darien 6, New Canaan 0
Monday, Oct. 8, at Darien HS
New Canaan 0-0
Darien 4-2 6
Darien: Shea van den Broek 1g, 2a; Molly Hellman 1g, 1a; Bridget Mahoney 1g; Lily Kulesz 1g; Catie Duggan 1g; Brinsley Rushe 1g
NC – Emily Gaeta 6 saves
D – Catherine Vogt and Monisha Akula 4 saves