Darien field hockey team advances to FCIAC semis with strong second half against Westhill
NORWALK -- The Westhill High School field hockey team was ready to make its first FCIAC playoff appearance in a long time a memorable one.
The Vikings embraced the challenge of facing the No. 1 Darien High Wednesday night in the FCIAC playoff quarterfinals at Brien McMahon High School.
A scoreless first half certainly got Darien's attention. But there was no panic on the Blue Wave bench.
When you have the resume of FCIAC and state titles that Darien field hockey owns, you understand that 60 minutes is a marathon not a sprint.
And that theory explains Darien's hard-fought 3-0 triumph as well as anything.
"We needed to get on the board. The first goal of each game is about confidence," Darien's Claire Culliton said. "Westhill was on fire. But we knew we had to keep on working."
The other key to victory for Darien (17-0, 14-0) -- which faces Staples in Thursday's 5 p.m. FCIAC playoff semifinal at Fairfield Ludlowe High -- was the Blue Wave's depth. Wilton faces New Canaan in Thursday's 7 p.m. semifinal
With 23:00 left to play, Darien head coach Mo Minicus inserted three subs on the forward line into the scoreless contest.
It took less than 40 seconds for the move to look like genius as Culliton made it 1-0 off a scramble in front with 22:21 remaining.
In fact, all three Darien goals came from non-starters. Galen Rohn canned a rebound with 10:11 left for 2-0.
Lydia Ruhlin added an insurance tally for 3-0 with 8:07 to go.
"It's great to have a strong bench. It makes everybody on the roster play harder when they are in the game," Minicus said. "One of our mottos is `Everybody has to be ready.' We needed an offensive spark. We needed to spread our attack out more across the field. Give Westhill's defense a lot of credit. They shut us down early and forced us to raise our level."
While Westhill (6-8-1-0, 5-8-1-0) is done with league play, Wednesday's experience and all the Vikings have learned this season in the gauntlet that is FCIAC field hockey will serve them well in the upcoming state tournament.
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"Their first FCIAC playoff game was an exciting time for our squad. We wanted to keep it at 0-0 as long as we could," said Westhill head coach Emily Lisy. "We're looking forward to having success in the state tournament."
On Wednesday night, Westhill's defense did its best to disrupt the Darien attack at the 20-yard line and 30-yard line.
Ehrlich finished Wednesday's contest with 10 saves and faced 10 Darien penalty corners.
Darien goalie Danica Hornick was strong when she had to be with two saves -- both in the second half.
Darien advanced to the FCIAC semifinals and played No. 4 Staples on Thursday, but the result was not available at press time. For a full game story, visit www.dariennewsonline.com