Historic kicks: Wave scores first final four at states
Updated 9:50am Nov. 12 — Darien went outward bound for the longest road trip it is likely to take to play at top seed Suffield in the state tournament.
But the Wave returns home journeying farther, than it's ever gone before, making the final four with a 1-0 victory in the Class LL quarterfinals on Saturday.
We need to stay focussed and do something that’s never been done.
— Emily DeNunzio
“Yes, first time we have ever gone to semifinals,” said Wave goalie and senior captain Christine Fiore. “So this is very exciting for us. We've been working so hard up to this point, so I think we can make it all the way.”
“There’s one team that had gone to the quarters,” said senior captain Emily DeNunzio. “And we knew once we got past here we could make history, and that’s what we did.”
Team scoring leader senior captain Katie Ramsay leads Darien into historic terrain with the lone goal, and Fiore, complemented by the most reliable defense in the playoffs, makes it an even dozen shutouts on the season.
"Watching yesterday's game, just shows, that when we put our heart into it we can pull anything out of any game," said senior captain Charlotte Harmon. "We wanted it more than them. In warm-ups we were super pumped-up, we had an amazing pump-up on the bus ride there. I think coming all that way, it made it more of a big deal. It was like, we have to prove something today."
“Emily DeNunzio, Anna (Fox), (Emily) Bergwall and Nelle (Kniffin) had awesome games,” said Fiore of her defense. “I think today Bergwall played amazing, she went into every tackle today.”
Ramsay steamed in and left no chance for Suffield to make a tackle on her winning goal in the first half.
“They were sitting back on me, and so it was harder to get balls in over the top like we normally play,” said Ramsay. “And there was a ball coming up the side and I went in to a tackle with a girl, and the ball bounced my way.”
She buried it, and gave birth to something new in Wave girls’ soccer fever.
“And I was able to slip it by the goalie,” Ramsay said of her interception and score.
Onora Brown and Ellen Harnisch pressured the defenders as Suffield tried to move up the left side, and Ramsay snatched it in the middle of the box.
Suffield loses for the first time to end its season at 17-1.
“It’s amazing, this team is so special,” said Ramsay. “The fact that we could make it this far, is crazy. And I’m excited to see how far we can go.”
“We need to stay focussed and do something that’s never been done,” DeNunzio said.
Eighth seed Darien High (14-2-3) goes to its first final four in the sport playing No. 4 Staples (14-3-1) in the semifinals 6:30pm Wednesday at Fairfield Ludlowe.
Darien beat the Wreckers 1-0 at home on Oct. 9.
The defense, that has only let in 10 goals this season, kept chances to a minimum.
“What they were strong at was shooting,” said Ramsay. “Chrissie did help us a lot. There were only a few where we worried. But Chrissie did come up big as always.”
“Not really any crazy moments,” said Fiore of the pace of events at the net. “But I think the last five minutes were incredibly stressful for everyone.”
“Of course Anna, Emily and Emily are always killing it in the back,” Ramsay said. “And they really keep us in every game.”
“Our game against Shelton was probably our defense's weakest game,” DeNunzio said, either strictly speaking, or, the Chief of the D speaking strictly. “So we knew we had to come back stronger.”
I've never been happier in my life than after we scored that goal.
— Charlotte Harmon
And it’s been done the hard way on the backline, doing without injured senior all-star Harmon all season, in a season she's stayed checked in, showing for practice and every game, and, making it show in the players she's helped along the way.
"I'm tortured that I can not play and it's hard to not be a part of it on the field," Harmon said. "But it's amazing to see it happen — it's just like, we've never done this before — and I've never been happier in my life than after we scored that goal.
"Even without me on the field, it doesn't matter. It just shows how strong our team is."
“It’s been tough without Charlotte this season in the back,” said Ramsay. “But we’ve had so many underclassmen stepping up.”
Freshmen, Kniffin, and Kate Bellissimo up front, are two.
“Nelle Kniffin has been such a vital part of our defense, even though she’s just a freshman,” Ramsay said. “She normally doesn’t play defense. She has really eased into that role and saved us a bunch of times today.”
Darien’s ticked rows of boxes of firsts in Wave sports, at a gallop, in recent years, with streaks for lacrosse, and state titles back-to-back in the boys’ rink, football about to set the league record for wins in a row, after doing so much more.
Here’s the next big thing.
“There’s got to be pressure in that,” DeNunzio said. “But, also, we’re so excited, we don’t even care about the pressure. We just want to play our game and play our best.”
The key ingredient in brewing up the best run so far at states is no secret.
“What kind of makes our team even better this year is that in my four years, it’s the closest we’ve ever been,” DeNunzio said. “I think that helps us on the field.”
“We’re very close this year,” added Ramsay. “Which I think is helping a lot. I think right now is the best we’ve been playing all season."