Comeback kids: Darien girls soccer rallies for 2-1 win over Wilton
Darien hasn’t been faced with many deficits during the past two weeks of the girls soccer season.
So when Wilton’s Lindsay Groves scored on a long free kick in the 35th minute of Thursday’s game, it was a splash of cold water for the Wave.
“In the first half, we were just slightly off in the connection, not quite getting the touches we needed to,” senior Ellen Harnisch said. “And after that first goal, it was a real wake-up call.”
And the Wave answered the alarm.
Senior co-captain Eilanna Dolan scored the equalizer in the 60th minutes, and Harnisch netted the winner with 9:59 to play as Darien defeated the Wilton Warriors, 2-1, at the Darien High School oval.
It was a nice turnaround from the first half, as the Wave was much crisper and more in synch over the final 40 minutes.
“Everybody just really rallied and worked hard,” Harnisch said. “We said we need to go out and get a goal in the first 10 minutes and we need to get this going, and that’s what we did.”
The Wave, improved to 5-1-1 and is unbeaten in its last five games with four wins and a tie.
For Wilton, the result marked a second straight loss and a 2-2-1 record.
“We could be better and we should be better,” Warriors' head coach Renato Topalli said. “It was frustrating. It wasn’t our best performance and I think we got out-worked when you look back at everything. Credit it to Darien, they worked hard, and there were moments that we did too, it just wasn’t enough.”
Both teams had solid performances from their back lines, with the Wave featuring senior co-captains Eva Finn and Anna Fox, freshman Maggie Ramsay, and sophomore Nelle Kniffen.
Darien used two goalkeepers, as starter Olivia Maniscalco, a junior, went to the sidelines following a collision with 26 minutes remaining. Senior Caroline Orphanos relieved and pitched a shutout the rest of the way.
For Wilton, the defense was led by, among others, freshman keeper Erynn Flynn and backs Grace Rava, a senior co-captain, and Alexandra Brichkowski, a senior.
“In the back, I thought we did well,” Topalli said. “We could’ve done a little better defending up top on the midfield to relieve some of the pressure on the back. But our back line played well and fought hard.”
The Warriors had a slight advantage during the first half, as the teams went back and forth and spent a lot of time in the midfield.
Groves, a senior co-captain, broke the scoreless tie after a whistle along the sidelines gave her a free kick in the Wave third. Her kick sailed to the goal and eluded Maniscalco to make it 1-0 for the Warriors.
Darien came out flying in the second half, and tied the score with 20:28 remaining when Dolan fired a direct kick around the Wilton wall and inside the right post.
“My coaches, Mike (Fraioli) and Leigh (Parson) suggested going low, and in the last game against Danbury, we played a low ball and it worked,” Dolan said. “So I saw a gap and I just treated it like a PK going for the corners.”
Following the equalizer, Darien kept up the offensive pressure, which led to a Wilton turnover and a goal.
“After they got that early goal before the half, we were really kind of down about it because we felt it was a little unfair,” Dolan said. “Once we got it level, we viewed the game as 0-0 and then we were working to get Ellen’s goal, and thankfully, she scored.”
The winning tally came in the 71st minute, as Darien freshman Ceci Stein pick the pocket of a Wilton defender and got the ball ahead to Harnisch. With Floyd out in front, Harnisch was able to take her shot and put it home.
When she got the ball, Harnisch just reacted.
“It’s funny because I never really see my goals,” she said with a smile. “The defender got it, I pressed, she passed it out and Ceci Stein came in and got the tackle. It deflected off and I just came in, the goalie was out, and I placed it. It was a team effort.”
After its recent run of success, Darien is now in the thick of the FCIAC playoff race.
“Nobody really thought we were going to be FCIAC contenders or state contenders, but after last season’s run, we definitely wanted to have a good season,” Dolan said. “We have a huge senior class and loads of juniors and sophomores stepping up. We knew the potential this team had, so we didn’t really need the recognition from others. We just keep our heads down and work hard.”