Darien beats Wilton for FCIAC field hockey crown
NORWALK -- The final hurdles were two of the biggest to clear for the Darien field hockey team, but clear them it did.
Three nights after turning back arch-rival New Canaan in the FCIAC semifinals, Darien was back at Brien McMahon High School seeking to conclude its run to perfection in FCIAC play with a championship victory against one-loss Wilton, as Georgia Cassidy was named MVP for scoring the lone goal of the Blue Wave's title-clinching 1-0 win.
"I thought Georgia was going to score. I could feel it. She always finishes for us and we expect nothing less from her," Darien captain Hollis Perticone said. "I have to give the credit to (coach) Mo (Minicus) because she's really good at calming us down. It's important to play your hardest and not be scared to lose."
For the second straight game, Darien's (16-0) win was anything but a walk in the park, but the Blue Wave finally snapped a scoreless tie with 3:26 remaining in the contest when Cassidy got control of a loose ball in front of the Wilton (14-2) cage and blasted it home for the unassisted goal.
"That was crazy, but we knew we'd be able to do it," Cassidy said. "I think our team is one of the few teams who can pull through in an entire second half and in the last five minutes. I think it says a lot about us."
"Wilton plays hard, they don't give up and they don't die. We know that about them and we expected it. They play such high pressure that you don't have time to dribble, so you really need to pass it into space and I think that kind of helped us get the ball up field," Minicus said. "(Cassidy) finished it, but it was set up by the whole team. I'm so proud of everybody."
Opportunities were few and far between in a relatively even first half. Wilton players such as Jill Detrick-Yee and Kailey Zengo looked dangerous on some of the team's penalty corners, but Darien goalie Danika Hornick stood tall while getting some help from Mollie Riegel, among others.
"We just try to be really relaxed during warm-ups and just try to get into our groove. Mo always tells us to sing a song to get us relaxed, and I know that's what I do," said Hornick, a senior captain who allowed just one goal in three FCIAC tournament games. "I was so excited (when Darien took the lead). I thought we had it the whole time."
Shots on cage were difficult to come by, but both Hornick and Wilton goalie Lizette Roman-Johnston made key saves to keep the game scoreless for nearly 57 minutes.
"This is the best game they've played all season and I can't be more proud of them. It's a tough lesson that they've learned tonight what happens if you don't put the ball in the cage," Wilton coach Dierdre Hynes said. "Lizette has been in extreme pressure situations since her sophomore year, it's almost second nature for her now."
The Warriors, whose only two losses have both come at the hands of the Blue Wave (the other was a 2-0 decision at Darien High School on Sept. 26), will look to rebound when they open the Class M state tournament as the No. 2 seed playing host to No. 15 Masuk on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
"Darien gets one opportunity and you're left feeling like this," Hynes said. "We've got to bring this into the state tournament next week. We've got to finish in the circle."
Darien gets back to work as the top seed of the Class L state tourney and will play host to the winner of No. 17 Westhill at No. 16 Newtown on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at Darien High School.
"I think we played really well tonight, and we just want to keep peaking into the state tournament," Perticone said.
DARIEN 1, WILTON 0
WILTON 0 0--0
DARIEN 0 1--1
Records: Wilton 14-2, Darien 16-0 FCIAC. Goals: D--Georgia Cassidy. Goalies: W--Lizette Roman-Johnston (5 saves); D--Danika Hornick (4). Shots: W--5; D--12.