Darien outlasts New Canaan to advance to FCIAC championship against Wilton
NORWALK -- Playing its typically crisp brand of field hockey while enjoying a sizeable advantage in time on the attack, the undefeated Darien Blue Wave express rolled through yet another stop at Brien McMahon High School Tuesday night, besting rival New Canaan 3-1.
The semifinal clash was certainly not a layup for the undefeated Wave, as Darien's game-winning marker by Georgia Cassidy came with less than 14 minutes remaining. On the play, Marissa Baker sent a long pass in the direction of the New Canaan cage to where Cassidy was waiting, and the Blue Wave sophomore buried her one-timer.
"I think both of them went through the goalie's legs and they had a girl behind the goalie that was kind of playing backup, and we kept hitting into their sticks, so (coach) Mo (Minicus) told us to start lifting it," said Cassidy, who scored two goals. "I think because it was so close we were really amped and we had a lot of energy on the sidelines and on the field."
The top-seeded Blue Wave (15-0-0) will once again put perfection on the line on Friday at 7 p.m. when they play for the FCIAC championship against the No. 2 Wilton Warriors, who defeated No. 6 Warde 3-0 Friday.
"When we went up 1-0, we knew it wasn't going to be over. That's why we play, and that's why it's fun," Darien's Hollis Perticone said. "Wilton is a great rivalry. They have some really great players, so we're just going to be working hard."
After claiming the lead for the second time, Darien managed to keep the ball deep in New Canaan territory for large chunks of time, and it got some breathing room when Cassidy scored her second goal with 8:14 remaining after receiving a pass from Kyla Johns, which boosted the Blue Wave advantage to 3-1.
"You find yourself in the game late, so it's a tough loss, but I'm so proud of the way they played. I just hope people know what a fight we gave them and how close the game was," said New Canaan coach Erin Gildea, whose Rams were seeded fourth and fell to 11-3-0-1. "We finally played to our potential. We made a couple adjustments coming into the game, and I think we really had them a little bit off guard."
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Less than 10 minutes into the first half and with the contest still scoreless, Darien took a shot that appeared destined for the back of the Rams' cage, but New Canaan's Rhian Ball alertly got her stick up to swat it away. Doing so, however, resulted in a penalty stroke for Perticone, who converted with a shot to the top-left quadrant of the cage.
"We practice strokes a lot because when it gets down to a stroke, you really need to score. It's sort of muscle memory at that point. I was a little more nervous because it's New Canaan, but you have to go back on what you practice," Perticone said. "The vibe was good when we were warming up; everyone was really excited. We knew it would be close and we were prepared for that."
New Canaan managed to keep the ball on Darien's half of the field in the opening minutes of the second half, and its ability to do so led to Isabel Taben scoring the game-tying goal on a one-timer after receiving a centering pass from Abbie Jameson.
"They played the best game they've played this season on a big stage," Gildea said. "Something I've learned playing (Darien) over the years is you can't play them not to lose. You have to play aggressive. We knew we'd have to put up a crooked number to win the game, and we thought we'd have to hold them to two goals or less to really have a chance."
New Canaan had the first penalty corner opportunity of the night, but Darien got the final 15.
"It was one of the toughest (wins). My girls came out moving the ball well, stepping up to the ball, inside attacking. We just couldn't put it in when we had that momentum, and I think the longer New Canaan held us off, the more momentum they got," Minicus said. "Our second half was great. It was a tough, physical game. It was very fast-paced, but our girls stayed tough."
DARIEN 3, NEW CANAAN 1
NEW CANAAN 0 1--1
DARIEN 1 2--3
Records: New Canaan 11-3-0-1, Darien 15-0. Goals: NC--Isabel Taben; D--Hollis Perticone, Georgia Cassidy 2. Assists: NC--Abbie Jameson; D--Marissa Baker, Kyla Johns. Goalies: NC--Emma Ball (13 saves); D--Danika Hornick (3). Shots: NC--4; D--17.