Darien edges New Canaan to reach FCIAC field hockey championship
NEW CANAAN — When Darien’s Georgia Cassidy got the ball just feet from the New Canaan goal with only two minutes remaining, pretty much all of Dunning Stadium knew what was coming next.
Cassidy buried her shot into the bottom left of the cage, propelling the Blue Wave past New Canaan 2-1 and into the FCIAC finals.
“It’s a lot of pressure getting the ball with that little time left,” Cassidy said. “So it’s crucial to finish and I looked up and saw the bottom left and just finished it.”
The Blue Wave (16-0), will face Wilton — a 2-0 winner over Norwalk the late semifinal — in Thursday’s FCIAC championship at Brien McMahon in Norwalk.
In a rematch of last year’s title game won by the Rams in a 2-0 upset, New Canaan played outstanding defense on Wednesday. However, it was a late breakdown that cost the Rams a win. Darien’s winning goal came off a penalty corner as Hannah McLane made a perfect cross pass to set up the sharp-shooting Cassidy for her game-winner.
“I told them we were playing with house money, we had nothing to lose and to make them earn it and we did,” New Canaan (11-4-1) coach Erin Gildea said. “It’s unfortunate the little bit of defensive breakdown at the end, you let a player like Georgia have an open shot and that much time she’s going to score every time. I think they even surprised themselves with how well they played, like I told them from day one they’re as good as any team in the state and I think they proved it.”
The Rams came aggressive on offense, determined to hand Darien its first loss of the season. The Rams got the first goal of the game in the 17th minute when Mariana Ferreira converted a rebound off a penalty corner.
Darien netted the equalizer on a penalty stroke when Marissa Baker rifled a shot into the top left corner of the cage. During the intermission Blue Wave coach Mo Minicus told her team it had to play with confidence if it was going to survive the New Canaan onslaught.
“I thought New Canaan came to the ball harder in the first half so at halftime I told the girls they have to just relax, it’s anybody’s game and it’s just a game,” Minicus said. “We were playing afraid to lose and they’re playing to win and so we just hung in there and we definitely were in their part of the field for that crucial part of the end of the game.”
The tense moments and down-to-the-wire finish typical of the intense rivalry were no surprise to either team.
“It’s such a great rivalry we have,” Minicus said. “The girls all know each other so well, it’s just a very respectful rivalry but it’s so fun because you never know what kind of game you’re going to get.”
Heading into state’s New Canaan, which is Class M, won’t have to face Darien (Class L), but Tuesday’s showing has Gildea hoping the game will leave a positive impression going forward.
“I just told them, let’s carry this confidence into states and also learn from this,” Gildea said. It should help their confidence after they get over the initial hurt of the loss, our goal is to win a state championship and I think if we play like we did tonight we’re hard to beat.”
DARIEN 2, NEW CANAAN 1
NEW CANAAN 1 0—1
DARIEN 1 1—2
Records: New Canaan 11-4-1; Darien 16-0. Goals: NC—Mariana Ferreira; D—Marissa Baker, Georgia Cassidy. Assists: D—Hannah McLane. Goalies: NC—Emily Conley (4 saves); D—Kaeleigh Morrill (2). Shots: NC—2; D—6.