No. 1 Darien field hockey shuts out No. 3 Guilford in clash of unbeatens

DARIEN — Darien’s Mo Minicus and Guilford’s Kitty Palmer have a combined 70 years of field hockey coaching experience, but remarkably, their teams had just one head-to-head clash prior to this season.

When they finally squared off again, the No. 1 Blue Wave scored three goals in the first quarter and went on to shut out No. 3 Guilford 6-0 Saturday in Darien.

It was a lopsided final score, and the Grizzlies (9-1-0-0) suffered their first loss, but both coaches looked at the meeting as beneficial.

“This is all going to help us be better players,” Palmer said. “They see what it is to be a championship team. This will help us going back to (the SCC) and our class. It’s all for the good.”

“We have 14 FCIAC games and we’re allowed 16, so we always try to fill those games with good competition,” Minicus said. “She and I are trying to beef up our schedule to prepare for the postseason, and it’s good to have a challenge like this.”

The teams’ only other meeting came during the 2011 Class M quarterfinals when Darien edged Guilford 2-1 in overtime.

On Saturday, the Wave (11-0-0-0) came out swinging, getting goals from senior co-captain Molly McGuckin and sophomores Ashley and Tori Stockdale to take a 3-0 lead after one quarter.

“That first quarter was probably the best first quarter we’ve had, and it was especially meaningful against such a great team,” Minicus said. “We just showed up. We got to the ball first, we did a lot of great step-ups with our mids and defenders, and our forwards did a good job controlling the ball in the circle. Everything just connected.”

Five players scored for the Wave, with McGuckin leading with two goals and one assist. Her first-quarter tally came during a scramble in front of the cage, as Gulford goalie Julia McDonald made an initial save only to have McGuckin quickly control the ball and cash in for a 1-0 lead.

“We knew they were a really strong team, and we practiced really hard this week preparing,” McGuckin said. “We haven’t had a ton of competition lately because we had a lot of big games at the beginning of the season, and we stepped it up. We played really well today, we had good ball movement and everyone was working really well together.”

Minicus used the word “grit” to describe McGuckin’s style of play.

“She’s such a workhorse, she’s a playmaker, she’s all-in and she’s focused,” Minicus said. “She’s not afraid to get in there and she hustles. Total grit and you can’t teach that.”

Minicus said Maddy Hult had one of her best performances, as the senior co-captain was key on both ends of the field, scoring one goal and helping to lead the defense.

The Wave was also able to keep Guilford senior co-captain Maddie Epke relatively quiet, limiting her chances on offense although Epke did have some strong drives into the circle.

The Grizzlies recovered in the second quarter and managed to sustain some pressure on the Darien defense.

“We got beaten pretty badly but we had moments where we were doing the right things,” Palmer said. “We need to do them more consistently, and we now see what it’s going to take. We had a good second quarter where we were challenging and their goalie made a couple of good saves.”

The Wave turned it on again in the third frame and scored three more goals, with Walker replacing a few starters to try and create a spark.

“This is all for the good for us,” Palmer said. “We have one very special player (Epke) and the biggest thing this year is to learn how to play with her, so that she doesn’t have to do it all. We did it very well against Glastonbury, a good team, the other day. I’m happy so far with how we’ve played, and today is a very teachable moment that I’m happy we were able to have.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Molly McGuckin, Darien: McGuckin had a hand in half of Darien’s goals, scoring twice and assisting once. Her goal with 6:59 remaining in the first quarter opened the floodgates for the Wave.

QUOTABLE

“I really like the pressure because it pushes everyone to play much higher than they normally would. This year, we weren’t really sure what to expect with this team, but everyone has been working really hard and I think this is one of the best teams we’ve had in a while.” — Darien senior Molly McGuckin on being in the Wave program

david.stewart

@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

No. 1 DARIEN 6, No. 3. GUILFORD 0

Guilford0 0 0 0 — 0

Darien3 0 3 0 — 6

Scoring: First quarter: D - Molly McGuckin, 6:59; D - Ashley Stockdale, 3:46; D - Tori Stockdale (Raina Johns), 1:09; Third quarter: D - Kyle Latimer (McGuckin), 11:32; D - Maddy Hult (Blake Wilks), 9:04; D - McGuckin, 2:05.

Goalies: G - Julia McDonald, Eliza Chamberlain (4th quarter) 19 saves; D - Grace La Du, Lindsey Darby (2nd half) 3 saves.

Records: Guilford 9-1-0-0; Darien 11-0-0-0.