Girls soccer clips the Cards
Scoring early off a set piece usually sets the tempo of a game and makes the head coach happy.
The Darien girls soccer team did just that, converting two first-half corner kicks against Greenwich, much to the delight of head coach Jonathan Bradley -- and the dismay of the Cardinals.
"In the preseason I predicted New Canaan, Greenwich and Westhill to be the top three teams," Darien coach Jonathan Bradley said. "So to tie Westhill and beat Greenwich is a great sign for our team."
The Cardinals, who routed Trinity Catholic 8-0 in their season-opener on Wednesday, couldn't get its passing game going Friday.
"The ball was in the air more than it was on the ground," said GHS junior forward Shannon Colligan, who drew much of the Blue Wave's attention. "That is not our game. Our game is to get the ball on the ground and move it quickly."
Darien scored the only goal they wound up needing 3:40 into the opening half. Senior Georgie Highton lofted her corner kick over almost everyone in the box, but a charging Dee, who plays centerback, got her foot on the ball and knocked in the net from a few yards out.
"It definitely set the tempo of the game because it was right in the beginning of the game," Dee noted. "It boosted our confidence and got us going."
The Cards fell into a two-goal hole after the Blue Wave again tallied on a corner kick at the 12:39 mark of the first half. Wong scored on a header off a perfectly placed corner by sophomore Blair Pelley.
"We knew we were going to have to do a lot to beat their keeper," Bradley said. "We have been working on it (corner kicks) in practice. Today, we came out and executed well."
Said Greenwich coach Danny Simpson: "We knew Darien was good on corner kicks and throw-ins and were set piece specialists, so we didn't want to give them too many opportunities. Unfortunately, we did and they punished us for it."
Despite playing against the wind during the first half, the Cardinals had several scoring chances. Senior midfielders Alex DiStefano and Maddy More tested Darien senior goalie Charlotte Phillips, but Phillips came up big each time. The Blue Wave goalie made six first-half saves, stopping 11 shots in all.
"She had a great game today," Bradley said. "That is what we need her to do game in and game out."
Gilbert gave the victors a 3-0 advantage when she won a 50-50 ball near the top of the box and blasted a shot past a diving Taylor Bucklin inside the right post with 3:48 to go in the first half. Bucklin, a sophomore, made eight saves for the Cardinals, facing a lot of pressure in the opening half.
Darien kept its intensity at a high level throughout.
"Our group of girls off the bench are coming in and playing as hard as our starters, and that's what is keeping our team together," Dee said. "That's why we're do so well."
As the game progressed, it became clear that Darien was going to avenge last year's 4-1 loss to Greenwich.
"It wasn't our day in the first half," DiStefano said.