New Canaan stuns Wilton, Darien blanks Staples in FCIAC field hockey semifinals
NORWALK -- The task facing the New Canaan field hockey team was daunting entering the FCIAC semifinals. The Rams were defeated by three goals by top-seeded Wilton in the regular season meeting between the two schools, and the Warriors entered Tuesday's rematch hungry to convert a recent string of near-misses in the postseason into a title.
The Rams were given a shot in the arm less than 90 seconds into the game in the form of a goal, and used a furious defensive effort to frustrate the Warriors and extend their postseason misery.
No. 4 New Canaan advanced to the FCIAC final with a stunning 1-0 upset of Wilton at Brien McMahon High School. The Rams will take on rival No. 2 Darien, which defeated Staples 3-0 in the nightcap, in the final on Thursday at 7 at McMahon.
"(Our team) just played their butts off for 60 minutes," Rams coach Erin Gildea said. "I told them it was going to be a long 60 minutes; obviously getting that early goal was huge. I'm just proud of them; that was a complete team effort. They just dug deep and played with heart."
"The (defender) stopped it for me and I got it; there was a ton of space that I could control it and just took a shot," Baran said.
The early goal gave the Rams something to defend, which they did with brilliance. Despite constant possession from the opposition, New Canaan only allowed six shots on goal.
While Wilton didn't threaten too often in the first half, it turned up the pressure to the tune of 16 penalty corners in the second half. The Warriors only got two shots off those corners.
"I don't think we were focused," Wilton coach Deirdre Hynes said. "We either messed up the insert, didn't receive it or couldn't get the shot off. At different times different parts of the corner went wrong."
Despite another outstanding regular season, the Warriors were snakebit once again in the conference playoffs. Despite winning numerous state championships and reaching the FCIAC final in five of the past eight years, the school has yet to capture the elusive championship.
"I don't think this group has really recognized that we've never won it," Hynes said. "The seniors are fully aware of it, but the freshmen and sophomores might not be. This is the toughest league in Connecticut; it's going to be the toughest tournament. In order to be the best you have to beat the best."
"We kept getting corners (against us), I was just thinking that we had to get them out," Morrill said. "We did a really good job of getting them out, it was really the defense."
Darien scored on its first two penalty corners to take a 2-0 lead into the break. Marissa Baker, who scored twice and added an assist, hammered a shot from the top of the circle to give the Blue Wave the lead less than five minutes into the game. Baker then fed Georgia Cassidy to double the lead with five minutes before the first half.
"That felt really good, sometimes there are special hits and that felt like it," Baker said of her goal.
The Wreckers controlled the majority of the second half and would have got back in the game had it not been for Morrill's heroics. Staples had nine penalty corners and 11 shots but couldn't cut the lead in half.
"It feels like it was two games, the first game Darien won and the second game we won, but the score didn't reflect that," Staples coach Ashley Del Vecchio said. "I thought we dominated the second half. ¦ (Morrill) stepped up; she was like a brick wall."
Baker sealed the win with a looping shot off a penalty corner with 4:26 left.
Darien 3, Staples 0
STAPLES 0 0--0
DARIEN 2 1--3
Records: Staples 11-4-0-1; Darien 14-4. Goals: D--Marissa Baker 2, Georgia Cassidy. Assists: D--Cassidy, Baker. Goalies: S--Jodie Baris (7 saves); D--Kaeleigh Morrill (13). Shots: S--14; D--14.
New Canaan 1, Wilton 0
NEW CANAAN 1 0--1
WILTON 0 0--0
Records: New Canaan 12-4-2; Wilton 14-3-1. Goals: NC--Ellery Baran. Assists: NC--Elizabeth Miller. Goalies: NC--Sarah Klearman (6 saves); W--Amanda Hendry (2). Shots: NC--5; W--6.