Wave girls fend off Ludlowe
FAIRFIELD -- A couple of goals set up by Georgie Highton corner kicks and a stingy defensive performance to stave off a hungry host led to a victory.
The Darien girls soccer team escaped a Fairfield Ludlowe squad down the stretch to earn a nail-biting 2-1 win on Tuesday night.
The Blue Wave remained unbeaten (5-0-1) by the slimmest of margins, as the host underdog Falcons (1-3-1) kept plugging away. The game remained in doubt until Ludlowe missed on a free kick from 30 yards out in the waning seconds, allowing the Wave players and coaches to finally collectively exhale -- and celebrate.
Darien established a 2-0 lead with just 13:43 to play in the second half, only to see the Falcons answer with 12:11 to go and proceed to apply pressure on the Wave defense on repeated attacks the rest of the way.
"We had some breathing room and then they threw the house at us," Darien coach Jon Bradley said. "I think the defense had a strong game today."
That back line made things manageable for goalkeeper Charlotte Phillips, who was active in coming out to the top of the box to make several clears on loose balls and recorded seven saves when all was said and done.
Highton set up Emily Stein for a first half lead that never seemed to be in much jeopardy, as the Wave had the better of the play for much of the night. Darien came out with a solid effort from the start and maintained possession for much of the first half, only to carry a 1-0 lead into the break.
"I think we thoroughly were the better team in the first half. They put us under a ton of pressure in the last 15 minutes," Bradley said. "This was a good win. I'm proud of the way we stood in there with the amount of pressure they threw at us in the last 15 to 20 minutes. We held strong against another good team."
Ludlowe had a significant change in attitude and tempo after the break.
"It was a different game in the second half because we were trying to defend a lead and they were trying to come back," Highton said.
Highton helped extend the lead with another perfectly placed corner kick when she found Dee just a few yards from the goal line near the middle. Dee got her head on the ball and sent it high into the net for a 2-0 Blue Wave lead.
As the ball hit the net, Dee hit the ground as she and a group of Fairfield Ludlowe players lost their balance after battling for possession of the ball. Dee popped back up with exuberance and celebrated with her teammates.
"I don't think words can describe getting that goal. I thought I was going to faint, I was so excited," said Dee, adding that this was her best moment in the DHS soccer program in her first fall at the school, nearly a year after moving from Washington, D.C. The goal, Dee said, gave the team a much more commanding lead.
"Two-goal leads are a lot more comfortable," she said.
When asked, Highton said she has probably set up six or seven goals on corner kicks this fall.
"That's all I wish for when I take a corner is for one of my teammates to get on the other end of it," she said. "I love it. I love dead balls. I love curving it in and hoping someone gets on the end of it."
"The first thing you've got to do is earn your corners," by putting pressure on the opposition deep in its end of the field, Bradley pointed out.
Ludlowe coach Tony Samuelian said he wasn't surprised by Darien's style of play and wished he had better-prepared his players.
"We knew Darien's game plan," said Samuelian, adding that the Wave thrives on netting balls set up on corners.
Darien began the week with a 3-1 win over Wilton on Monday and is scheduled to cap it off with a game against Norwalk's Brien McMahon on Friday.
"Our goal at the beginning of the week was to win all three and be undefeated at the end of the week," Highton said.
If the Wave achieves that goal, the team will try to keep the winning ways going beginning next Tuesday, Oct. 5, in the next home contest when talented and deep Ridgefield visits for a 4 p.m. start.