NEW CANAAN -- In a game that was largely a defensive struggle from start to finish, the New Canaan girls soccer team discovered the same thing that Darien's last three opponents found out: It's tough to score on the Blue Wave.
Darien ran its winning streak to three and its shutout streak to four, scoring twice in the final 16:06 for the 2-0 shutout victory on the road.
For the first 60 minutes, the game was about as even as it gets, as the Rams and Wave virtually split time of possession. Both teams had their fair share of shots, but quality scoring opportunities were few and far between for both sides. Much of the play occurred in the midfield, as neither team could establish a strong presence in its opponent's territory.
That changed in the "fourth quarter," as Darien was able to keep the ball in New Canaan territory for several minutes, leading to a free kick for Dillon Schoen at the 17-yard line.
Schoen's kick landed in front of the New Canaan net, resulting in a scramble, as the ball was eventually blasted home by Darien's Alexa Sheldon with 16:06 to play.
"Basically, I just crashed the goal like all the rest of my teammates. There was a lot of confusion, but I saw the opportunity to toe ball it in, so I did," Sheldon said. "It was really nice to win this game, especially now because it puts us in a good position."
New Canaan began to push for the equalizer, and with six minutesremaining, the Rams manufactured what may have been their best scoring opportunity of the day.
"In the first half, we probably looked like we were the better of the two. But, again, a close game. Very even," Bamford said. "The girls are disappointed, obviously, but there's going to be a lot of games like this. If we keep working hard and applying ourselves the way we have from game to game, hopefully it'll all even itself out at the end of the season."
"We definitely owe (the shutouts) to our defense and to our goalie," Sheldon said. "They've been playing awesome. They've been stepping up and keeping up with their good defense."
New Canaan's aggression in searching for the potential game-tier led to an opportunity for Darien's Kelly Karczewski, whose goal with 20 seconds remaining sealed the win.
"A rivalry game like that, it's going to be about who's got the heart to fight to get through the end. New Canaan's a good team. They don't let you play and they're up for everything," Darien coach Leigh Parsons said. "We knew at halftime if we settled and tried to move the ball around, we could get something out of this. We settled and started playing the last 20 minutes. It was good to see."
The Rams (3-4) dipped below the .500 mark, but they've hardlybeen blown out in any of their games. Their other three defeats were a pair of 1-0 decisions and a 4-2 loss.
"We just couldn't get the ball in the back of the net when we needed to. It's a fine line between winning and losing, particularly in soccer," Bamford said. "It's going to be a tight game any time you're playing any of the teams that are challenging to have a strong season."
DARIEN 0 2--2
NEW CANAAN 0 0--0
Records: Darien 4-2-1, New Canaan 3-4. Goals: D--Alexa Sheldon, Kelly Karczewski. Assists: D--Dillon Schoen. Goalies: NC--Katie Donovan (5 saves); D--Kellyn Berrigan (8). Shots: NC--9; D--15.