Darien girls soccer tops Fairfield Warde, setting up showdown with unbeaten Glastonbury
There are few high school playoff tournaments which are as wide open as soccer, and Thursday afternoon's meeting between No. 16 Darien and No. 17 Fairfield Warde felt about as evenly matched as the team's seeds would suggest.
With the victory, Darien advanced to play top-seeded Glastonbury (13-0-2) -- which had a first round bye -- on Saturday at Glastonbury.
In its bid to deal Glastonbury its first defeat of the 2011 season, Darien fell just short in a 2-1 decision.
"We knew Warde would be a tough team coming in, and we had the respect for them when we played them during the season," Darien coach Leigh Parsons said. "You're going to have to face the best team sometime, and [Glastonbury is] No. 1, so why not now? I don't really know too much about them, but I believe if we show up ready to play, we can give anyone a game."
In what was otherwise a tightly-contested defensive battle in the first half, Darien broke through with 3:22 remaining on its fifth corner kick. Schoen, who took the corner, sent a short ball towards the Warde net. The ball appeared to deflect off of a Warde defender and sneak just inside the near post. After some initial confusion, Darien realized it had taken a crucial 1-0 lead late in the first half.
"I was trying to get it to my teammates so that they could crash it and get it in the goal," Schoen said. "I thought it was going to be a bad corner kick, but it ended up hitting off one of the defenders and rolling into the goal. Everyone was standing around waiting for something to happen and it ended up being a goal."
Darien was awarded another corner kick with 30 seconds remaining in the half, but Warde goalie Katie Brennen reached high for a critical save to keep her team within striking distance as the first half concluded.
Other than the goal by Schoen, the best scoring opportunity of the game undoubtedly belonged to the Mustangs. Just six minutes into the game, Warde's Emily Pullen took control of the ball in front of the Darien net and unleashed a quick shot that bounced squarely off the crossbar before being cleared aside by Darien.
"Anything could have changed the momentum of that game. It was a hard-fought battle by both teams the entire time," Warde coach Tom Cunningham said. "An early goal could have made a difference, but unfortunately it didn't bounce our way."
Darien (10-4-3) came within a few inches of increasing its lead to 2-0 about midway through the second half when Kelly Karczewski charged in for a short range shot. Karczewski's shot was partially deflected by a diving Brennen, and the ball rolled into the far post before being cleared away by Warde.
Warde (9-6-2) created several scoring opportunities in the second half, but strong defense by Darien, including Leslie Yuen and Julia Black, prevented the Mustangs from getting on the scoreboard. Darien goalie Phoebe Taylor made four saves and Brennen turned away five shots.
Warde's final quality scoring opportunity came with four minutes to play. Pullen took a free kick and appeared to place the ball in a favorable position for Warde, but Darien's Emily Stein promptly headed the ball out of harm's way.
"We created a few good chances, but we just couldn't put the ball away," Cunningham said. "It was a good game between two good teams, and it was just one mistake that did us in."