Defensive circus: Thrills, spills and skills, but no scoring in classic clash at NC

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Defensive perfection was employed in the form of (from left) Emily DeNunzio, Nell Kniffin, Emily Bergwall and Anna Fox.

GIRLS SOCCER

It was an entertaining defensive circus played with two rings at either end of the pitch.

Although, in the center ring of the Wave’s 0-0 tie at New Canaan on Wednesday, was the Darien defense.

We had a few opportunities. But it wasn’t our best day.

— Katie Ramsay

Because New Canaan, attacking like a stampede of Barnum and Bailey elephants late in the second half, made the proverbial bend-not-break defense a must if Darien was to avoid a loss at this crucial part of the regular season.

And nab the knot Darien did with the high wire act of Christine Fiore (seven saves), who made stops high and low — mostly high — not losing her balance or nerve in goal.

She made three tough stops late in regulation — one on a high riser in the save-of-the-game — and the acrobatic defense in front of her kept blunting Rams rushes and keeping the rebounds cleared in Darien’s ninth shutout of the year.

Darien goes to 9-2-2, New Canaan to 5-3-4.

There wasn’t a clown in sight under the big top of this annual clash of rivals, despite the inconclusive conclusion to the contest.

But there was lots to smile about from Fiore, chief-of-the-defense senior Emily DeNunzio, classmate Emily Bergwall, backline proteges, junior Anna Fox, and freshman Nelle Kniffin, playing with a cast on her forearm.

And Eilanna Dolan cracked the whip on taming the NC attack at midfield, turning back half a dozen plays before they could get started.

The Rams defense was tenacious as well in stumping Wave top scorers Katie Ramsay and Ellen Harnisch, who seemed to have red and white cloth stuck to their blue uniforms all game.

“Our team has been really great at getting me the ball from back on defense,” Ramsay said. “Emily DeNunzio’s killing it back there, in the midfield with Nat and Eilanna. They keep getting me the ball so I have the opportunity to score a lot.”

Opportunities were spare at New Canaan for Ramsay with defenders all but hanging off each of her elbows when she got close.

“So, today, they had someone man-marking me,” she said. “So it was a little harder to get the ball in the net.”

Darien’s best chances came on a couple of near breaks from Ramsay in the second half, and on a free kick that just missed over the top.

Nathalie Bravo kept the offense ticking with a stream of toss-ins and corner kicks in the second half, and let fly on two free kicks that were scooped by the goalie.

Ramsay had a strong bid from 15 yards stopped up high in Darien’s best chance to open up the scoring with a first half goal.

“We had a few opportunities,” said Ramsay. “But it wasn’t our best day.”

“We have players who can play really good through-balls,” said Bravo. “It just wasn’t really working today. We weren’t connecting through the midfield. We had good chances, it was just really hard to get that one goal that we needed.”

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Darien Times Sports Editor since 2000

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