WESTPORT -- Junior Sloane Bessey made sure the Darien High field hockey team would go into this weekend's FCIAC playoffs on a high note.
Darien closed out the regular season 15-1 -- second in the conference behind unbeaten Wilton (15-0) -- and will look to reclaim the conference crown that it lost a season ago.
"I'm really proud of the season that the girls had. We had some hard games, we had some fun games, but this team, I'm just so happy that they are 15-1," Darien head coach Mo Minicus said.
Darien, which saw its string of 82 straight wins and four conference championships shattered by Staples in the semifinals a year ago, came through with a dominant second half on Tuesday.
The Blue Wave held a commanding 15-2 edge in shots on the afternoon and never cracked defensively in front of goalie Danica Hornick. The junior made two saves and recorded her team's 11th shutout of the season.
It was the 13th straight win for Darien since losing to Wilton 1-0 on Sept. 19, but Minicus thought her team could've played even better.
"We were just one step behind today," she said. "The field was a little bit slower than we're used to; but not to make excuses. ... Staples played with nothing to lose. They played a great game and stepped up."
Staples (8-6-0-2) pressured Darien's defense early and had its chances, including a breakaway attempt midway through the first half that Hornick kicked aside. But while the Blue Wave never buckled, the Wreckers weren't so fortunate.
Bessey gained control of a Staples clearing attempt inside the circle late in the first half and punched a shot just out of the reach of goalie Jodie Baris.
"I was telling them that they need to be intense but make smart decisions," Staples head coach Ashley Del Vecchio said. "We didn't have the best decision-making today. They were playing their hearts out, but with something like that, we get broken down and goals happen."
Bessey's goal calmed some nerves on the Darien sideline and it proved to be enough to close the Wreckers out.
"It was great," Bessey said of her goal. "I think we were getting nervous just because when we played Staples last, we dominated and dominated and just didn't finish. We didn't want a repeat of that."
The Blue Wave, which came into the afternoon with 67 goals on the season, nearly had another, but Baris stood tall in net. The Wreckers' freshman goalie made 12 saves, several in the second half.
"She did a great job," Del Vecchio said. "She's a freshman. Nerves are going to come out, especially when the upperclassmen pump up the game so much. She hustles on the ball, so that's part of it."
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DARIEN 1, STAPLES 0
DARIEN 1 0--1
STAPLES 0 0--0
Records: Darien 15-1; Staples 8-6-0-2.
Goals: D--Sloane Bessey. Goalies: D--Danica Hornick (2 saves); S--Jodie Baris (12 saves). Shots: D--15; S--2.