Darien's 93-game unbeaten streak snapped by Staples in FCIAC semifinals
NEW CANAAN -- The FCIAC finally has an answer to the four-year old question: Who will end Darien's streak as queens of the conference?
Staples' Misha Strage scored with 24:14 remaining in the second-half, shattering Darien's historic winning streak and sending Staples into the FCIAC final with a stunning 1-0 win on Thursday night at Dunning Field.
Despite a 15-2 shot advantage and a 13-4 edge in penalty corners, Darien could not make its superiority count where it mattered most: the scoreboard. With the defeat, the Blue Wave's run of four straight conference championships, 82 consecutive wins, and 93 games without defeat were reduced to rubble by the Wreckers.
"We feel like we won the Oscars or something," Staples coach Cecily Anderson said.
It was indeed quite the performance by the Wreckers, who rode their luck at times when faced with each Blue Wave attack, but never buckled under the pressure.
"Our mentality was to take it one play at a time. We tried to focus on each play and do the best we can," Anderson said
Staples will now meet No. 2 Wilton in Saturday's 24 p.m. FCIAC championship at Brien McMahon in Norwalk. The Warriors beat Wilton 1-0 Thursday in the night cap at Dunning Field.
The star of the night for the Wreckers was goalie Chris Lueb. The senior made an outstanding string of saves in each half, 11 in all, keeping Staples in the lead whenever the Blue Wave threatened to steal it away.
"We may have dominated, but we didn't win and that's sports sometimes," Darien coach Mo Minicus said.
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"(Staples) kept fighting. When there is a goalie that's playing like that it is always going to be tough. (Lueb) made some great saves."
However, the performance would have been for naught had it not been for Strage's timely goal.
Off a penalty corner, Emily Ashken fired a low shot into traffic and Strage was on hand to expertly tip it through the legs of Darien goalie Danica Hornick. It was the Wreckers only shot in the second half, but it was the only one they needed.
"I finally got my stick angled the right way and the ball went in. All that yelling from my coaches finally paid off," Strage joked.
The victory was not a complete shock to Staples, which had already proved it could play with the Blue Wave during the regular season. The Wreckers gave Darien all it could handle in a narrow 3-2 defeat in September and with a second chance to accomplish a goal years in the making, Staples did not disappoint.
"This is something that as a freshman, these seniors wanted to beat Darien. It's a dream come true," Anderson said.
"We wanted this for so long. We wanted to be the team that beat Darien, and end their winning streak. My four years of high school playing field hockey, this was my best moment. They are an amazing team and to finally beat them means we can hold our own," Strage said.
Darien piled on the pressure in the second half, but Lueb would not let the Wreckers' perfect evening be ruined. Cameron Lattimer, Rohn, and Kat Huber all had shots saved after Strage's goal as the Blue Wave chased an equalizer.
"Lueb is such a positive player who has gotten better and better and provides confidence to the backline. She stepped up big time," Anderson said.
"They had a bunch of big breakthroughs but I just came out and protected the net. I was thinking it's now or never. I tried to cover as much ground as possible," Lueb said. "Our defense did a great job. Everyone gave it their all to be there for each other. It was a real team effort."
Darien will now prepare for the state tournament from the unusual position of spectators in its own conference final.
"We have to capitalize more offensively. When you have your opportunities you have to find your teammate and make the right pass at the right time," Minicus said.
fciac field hockey
Staples 1, darien 0
STAPLES 0 1--1
DARIEN 0 0--0
Records: S 10-3-3-1 D 17-1-0-0
Goals: S--Misha Strage Assists: S--Emily Ashken. Goalies: S--Chris Lueb (11 saves) D--Danica Hornick (1 save) Shots: S-2 D-15