Darien's seven-game win streak snapped in tie with Ridgefield

DARIEN -- Perhaps one of the most encouraging signs for the Darien girls soccer team after its 1-1 draw with visiting Ridgefield was that there was still something to be desired among coach Leigh Parsons and his players, even after the Blue Wave extended their unbeaten streak to eight.

And while the tie keeps Darien (9-2-2) in second place in the FCIAC standings, the Wave were hardly complacent with the deadlock, particularly after leading 1-0 at halftime.

"They're a good team. There was a bit of luck on our side today, but when you're playing well, you create a bit of you own luck, so we'll take it," Parsons said. "It was good for our girls to have a game where not everything's going our way and to find a way to get through the game and get a result. As a coach, you've got to be happy about that."

The Blue Wave's very first shot gave them the advantage less than eight minutes into the contest. Ridgefield (7-3-4) had possession deep in its own territory, but pressure from Kelly Karczewski and Dillon Schoen forced a Tigers turnover. Darien took possession and a lead pass from Katie Cronin allowed Karczewski to slip her close-range deflection into the bottom-right corner of the net.

"I think Kate Cronin had it up the side, made a couple of moves and kind of did a floater ball. I initially missed, but it hit off the defender and the goalie had to come out, so I just put it past her," Karczewski said. "We're really excited that we haven't been beat on our home field yet. We were upset about the tie and they were really excited about it, which says a lot about how good we are this year."

While the Blue Wave attack was creating several scoring opportunities in the game's early goings, their defense was equally effective on its side of the field, not even permitting Ridgefield a shot on net over the first 16 minutes despite a pair of early corner kicks

Ridgefield's best chance for the equalizer in the first half occurred during a scramble in front of the Darien net, but two consecutive chances -- including an extremely close-range shot by Ellie Molwitz -- were smothered by Darien goalie Kellyn Berrigan, who made 13 saves.

Darien's Morgan Sawitsky made a bid for a two-goal Blue Wave lead when she received a pass just outside the Ridgefield box with her back to the net, turned to her left and blasted a right-footed shot that was stopped by Ridgefield netminder Julia Middlebrook.

For the first 24 minutes of the second half Ridgefield kept the ball almost exclusively on Darien's side of the field. The Tigers appeared primed to get the equalizer off of a corner kick, but Sarah Battipaglia's shot was kicked away at the goal line by Cronin.

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Minutes later, however, Ridgefield's Keely Lockwood notched the game-tying goal after taking in a pass from Battipaglia on a fast break with 16:30 to play.

"Sarah played a great through-ball, which was kind of open the whole game. I was being man-marked so I just ran in past the person and just placed it on the right side. It was such a bad shot, but I was just hoping it would go in," Lockwood said with a laugh. "This game definitely boosted our confidence; it shows we can come back against one of the best teams in the FCIAC."

With one minute remaining and Darien on the counter-attack, Schoen took a free kick, setting up Emily Stein, whose header attempt went just high over the crossbar.

"They've proven they're a very good team and they gave us a tough test today. We're coming together as a team, which is very important moving forward," Ridgefield coach Alex Harrison said. "Also, the way we possessed the ball. Possession on the ball is crucial. The more possession you have, the more chances you're going to get, and I thought we did a great job with that today."

jchik@bcnnew.com; @jchik17



DARIEN 1 0--1

Records: Ridgefield 7-3-4, Darien 9-2-2. Goals: R--Keely Lockwood; D--Kelly Karczewski. Assists: R--Sarah Battipaglia; D--Kate Cronin. Goalies: R--Julia Middlebrook (4 saves); D--Kellyn Branigan (13). Shots: R--18; D--13.