Darien field hockey tops Staples in FCIAC championship rematch
WESTPORT — The Darien and Staples field hockey teams have built quite a rivalry over the past few seasons, meeting in two state finals and going head-to-head for the FCIAC championship last year.
In the aftermath of Darien’s 3-1 win over the Wreckers in Westport on Wednesday, however, Blue Wave senior Molly Hellman was very diplomatic about an early showdown.
“It’s always exciting to play Staples; they have a strong team,” Hellman said. “Any win feels good. I don’t put too much on the name (on the opposing jersey). It’s more important to focus on us than the other team.”
That turned out to be a great approach for Darien, which was in tune in every aspect of the game en route to a win which puts it in the FCIAC driver’s seat for the time being.
Darien scored two early goals in a span of 1:24 to take control and added one more tally in the second half before Staples averted the shutout in the closing seconds.
All-in-all, it was a solid day for a Wave team which improved to 2-0 with victories over a pair of FCIAC contenders. They topped Ridgefield 2-0 last Thursday.
“I was very pleased,” Darien head coach Mo Minicus said. “I was pleased with how our team came out, passed the ball, and how they moved the ball quickly. We had a corner in the first few seconds of the game, our defense did a great job stepping up to the ball, and we executed when it counted.”
Staples, the defending Class L champion, was playing without two of its better players as All-Stater Kyle Kirby and Laine Ambrose are sidelined with injuries.
The Wreckers (1-1) received a solid game from goalie Roxanne Augeri (11 saves), but was unable to sustain much offensively outside of a 10-minute span of the second half. Freshman Emma Nahon also did a solid job marking Hellman and limiting her chances.
“With the people on the field today, we were a little slow getting to the 50-50 passes,” Staples head coach Ian Tapsall said. “It’s still early in the season and we’re still trying to find the right system to fit us. Some of these girls were playing out of position and some had man-to-man marking jobs that they’re not used to. (Darien) played very well, they finished well, and the first 15 minutes just soured the game for us.”
Darien’s first goal was a matter of persistence, as several Blue Wave players crashed the circle. Augeri made four kick saves on the series, but the ball was finally corralled and put back in by Brinsley Rushe for a 1-0 lead with 21:46 remaining in the half.
“There was a scrum in the circle in front of the goalie — just sticks everywhere and the ball was flying,” Hellman said. “I know I took a few shots that weren’t that strong, but Brinsley put it in, which was a great way to start.”
“We did what you’re supposed to do: Stay low, keep the ball away from your feet,” Minicus said. “Brinsley was right there at the right time and knocked it in.”
Just 1:24 later, the Wave was at it again, as Catie Duggan finished off a rush with an assist Hellman to make it 2-0.
“It feels really good to get up initially but you’ve got to keep the mindset a 2-1 game is very different and it can switch any second,” Hellman said. “So you have to keep yourself humble.”
The Blue Wave’s defense, led by backs Tala Garcia, Lindsey Olson, and Charlotte Domittner and goalie Catherine Vogt (5 saves), held off some early pressure from Staples in the second half, before Evelyn Hidy made it a 3-0 game on a goal with 18:04 remaining.
The Wreckers broke through on a penalty corner with 17.6 seconds remaining, when Isabella Devaney’s high shot glanced off the stick of a Wave defender and went into the cage.
A high point for the Wreckers was the play of Augeri, who has taken over as the starting goalie this year despite being inexperienced at the position.
“Our goalie last season graduated so we had no goalie and I asked if anybody wants to be goalie and she said she’d do it,” Tapsall said. “The only thing we had to do was find her pads and make sure she knew which glove to put on the correct hand and then we went from there. She’s coming up very well — very clean, very quick. She’s going to be fine.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Darien’s defense. The Blue Wave was clicking on all cylinders and it’s difficult to single anyone out, but the defensive unit stood tall when it was challenged. Catherine Vogt was solid in the cage and the only goal allowed was in the waning seconds with the result already determined.
“It’s a really great team. We’re all very close inside and outside of field hockey, so it’s great to connect. We have jokes and stories, it’s just a really close-knit team and that helps a lot on the field.” — Darien senior co-captain Molly Hellman