Darien field hockey team shuts out Wilton in matchup of unbeatens
DARIEN -- Something had to give at Darien High School.
Not only did the host Blue Wave and the visiting Wilton Warriors enter play having won all of their first four games, the squads had combined to surrender just one goal prior to their matchup on Thursday afternoon.
No strangers to one another -- or to the top of the FCIAC standings -- it was the Blue Wave which defended their home turf with a 2-0 victory over the Warriors.
"It's always fun to play Wilton. Both teams have the utmost respect for each other. It makes it fun to play and it makes it fun to prepare for," Darien coach Mo Minicus said. "I thought we did a great job controlling the ball and applying pressure early. It would have been nice to convert on a few more opportunities, but I think that Wilton did a nice job of breaking out of the defensive end quickly."
Darien held a slight advantage in time on the attack in the first half, and it broke through on a scramble in front of the Wilton cage. Darien's Georgia Cassidy was denied on a short-range shot by sprawling Staples goalie Lizette Roman-Johnston, but teammate Claire Culliton was there for the rebound, burying her shot for the 1-0 lead.
"I just hit it into the right corner, right past the goalie's left hand. We were so excited," Culliton said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game and they really came out on fire. We lost to them last year, so we were pumped for this this year."
Wilton began to assert itself in Darien territory late in the first half, even earning three penalty corners in the final 1:30, but strong defense by the Blue Wave, including Katie Shanahan and Mollie Riegel, prevented a shot on goal.
The teams traded scoring opportunities in the first four minutes of the second half, but shots by Wilton's Meredith Rappaport and Culliton went just wide.
The Blue Wave doubled their lead with 18:03 to play off of their second consecutive penalty corner. Cassidy received a pass from Riegel with her back to the Wilton cage and a defender right on top of the play, but the Darien sophomore spun quickly to her right and unleashed a shot to make it 2-0.
Wilton nearly got back into the game on a wild scramble in front of the Darien cage with 11 minutes remaining, but stuff-in attempts by Megan Cunningham and Maddie Duffy, among others, were unsuccessful.
Wilton pressured in the game's waning minutes, controlling possession and keeping the ball in Darien territory, but ultimately couldn't solve the Darien defense or goalie Danica Hornick, who made three saves.
"I think Darien came out ready and a little more aggressive and on top today than we were," Wilton coach Dierdre Hynes said. "We were too inconsistent today, and we learned our lesson the hard way. It's better to learn this lesson now than in November."
Roman-Johnston also turned in a strong performance, stopping eight shots by Darien, including a stick save to rob Elizazbeth Feingold, who nearly made it 3-0.
"We don't set anybody up; it's all teamwork. I tell them to know their role, do their role and get in the right spot," Minicus said. "The goals don't have to be pretty; the ball just has to go in. The defense totally stepped up at the end."
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @jchik17
DARIEN 2, WILTON 0
WILTON 0 0--0
DARIEN 1 1--2
Records: Wilton 4-1 (3-1 FCIAC), Darien 5-0 (5-0 FCIAC). Scoring: D--Claire Culliton, Georgia Cassidy. Assists: D--Cassidy, Mollie Riegel. Goalies: W--Lizette Roman-Johnston (8 saves); H--Danica Hornick (3). Shots: W--6; D--14.