Field hockey remains undefeated after win over Rams
Published 9:52 pm, Wednesday, October 20, 2010
NEW CANAAN -- For the majority of the first half, Darien got the angry, determined New Canaan team it expected to see.
But eventually New Canaan's endurance and determination gave way to Darien's talent and pedigree, and the Blue Wave walked off Dunning Field Wednesday night with a 7-1 win, improving the team's record to 13-0.
"They were tough today," Darien head coach Mo Minicus said. "New Canaan came on really strong, played really tight man-to-man defense. They were physical, but not in a bad way -- just really high pressure."
The Rams (7-4-1-1), in fact, got on the board first. Austin Ready took a pass from Bea Eppler and her hard shot deflected off a Darien foot to give New Canaan the 1-0 lead 1:58 into the game.
It wouldn't stay that way for long. Sam Johnston scored 64 seconds later on a pass from Ellie Riegel at the 27:04 mark, tying the game. Riegel banged home an unassisted shot with 15:33 remaining in the first half, and Darien never looked back.
"We hunted in pairs and kept our intensity high," Riegel said. "After the first goal, we kept our composure. ... I think our ability to pass is amazing. We can really work it across the field and switch our field well. It creates a wider lane to attack on."
New Canaan's primary problem wasn't Darien's ever-charging offense, but rather the inability for most to keep their legs moving with the ball as they tried to move it up the field.
"We're working on learning to improvise," Rams head coach Erin Gildea said. "We have a game plan, and you always want to execute that, but there's always going to be times you have to divert from it and get by. We're still working on that, picking the ball up while moving. We tend to stop, get the ball, then move. Against a team like this, they're already in a position to defend you."
Part of that is due to this team having a load of sophomores, and even juniors, who are seeing playing time that wasn't there with this team the past two seasons.
We have a lot of inexperience," Gildea said. "I have three starters that just started playing this past winter, things like that. It's just the game sense."
New Canaan couldn't get the ball into the Darien zone often in the first half, but they still kept the pressure on and forced the Blue Wave to turn to options B and C.
"I had to relax them," Minicus said. "It was such a frenzied pace of the game at the beginning. My timeout [message] to them was really to just breathe, relax and play their game."
Leslie Gill's unassisted goal at the 12:14 mark eased the tension on the Darien sideline, and the score from Hollis Perticon (with an assist from Alex Iqbal) with 7:46 remaining rounded out the first-half scoring.
"Our game plan going in was to make sure we didn't let any of their girls get open, and we literally had a couple, literally, wide open" Gildea said. "You give a player that good space and time, they're going to score."
Rams goalie Amanda Milunovich had 10 saves, while New Canaan only got four total shots on goal. It's been a standout year for Blue Wave goalie Perrin Brown, by the way, who had the unenviable task of replacing three-year starter Aimee Rich.
"Perrin has done a great job," Minicus said. "(She) was behind Aimee for two years. She was ready to fill those shoes. Our defense has done a great job in helping to protect Perrin. I mean, they scored quickly on us today -- yes, Perrin's the last person back there, but everybody fell asleep -- but the saves she's had to make, they've been great."
The rest of the Darien scoring came from Johnston (24:35 left in the second half), Iqbal (23:35) and Lilly Cassidy (4:55).
"We knew, because of our past season with them with states and FCIACs, they were out to get us," Riegel said. "We knew it was going to be a high-intensity game. So we came into it not thinking about their season and just came in strong."
Despite the team's undefeated mark and three goals allowed all season, Minicus said the group has faced a gauntlet of different challenges.
"I feel like we have been tested," Minicus said. "I'm always telling them to expecting anything. Expect everything. Any team can throw anything at us, and we need to expect it -- anything. But Warde tested us well; our game against Mamaroneck was a good test; New Canaan scored against us first today. I was proud of them for not even being rattled. (Once New Canaan scored) it was like, `Let's go.' "
The Rams still quite haven't reached that point where a switch can be flipped, according to their head coach.
"I think there's still the issue of believing, 100 percent, that we can beat this team," Gildea said. "I think we're almost there, and today our goal was just to prove that they're human, they make mistakes. We wanted to figure out how to generate scoring opportunities, and we did that. I told them it was going to be a long 60 minutes, and they're such a great team they can sense when their opponents are getting a little tired or doubting themselves, and that's when they really take it up a notch."
While Darien continues to cruise and is expected to reach the FCIAC title game with some ease, New Canaan, who was in that title game last year, will now try to learn as best as it can from this humbling loss and work toward a rematch in the postseason with Minicus' team.
"At this point I'm very happy with them," Gildea said. "We had a very slow start that we were all very unhappy with. I thought we underachieved and took some things for granted. But we had a great win against Warde, 2-0 on Friday. We had a nice little win streak coming in and we knew this team is amazing, they're the best team, and we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could play with them, and I think that we did."