Darien edges New Milford to reach state final
RIDGEFIELD -- The New Milford High field hockey team went through the SWC tournament and the first two games of the Class L state tournament without surrendering a goal.
In order to reach the program's first Class L final, the Green Wave needed to deliver one more defensive gem against the two-time defending Darien Blue Wave.
New Milford came up with another great effort, but it wasn't enough Tuesday night as seventh-seeded Darien pulled out a 1-0 victory at Ridgefield High to secure a return trip to the finals. It's the second time in three years Darien edged New Milford 1-0 in the semifinals.
Darien advances to face No. 1 Glastonbury, a 1-0 winner against No. 5 Cheshire in Tuesday's other semifinal, in Saturday's championship at Wethersfield High. Darien defeated Cheshire in the past two finals.
"They are a very good team," New Milford coach Dawn Hough said of Darien. "They played a very physical game and limited our chances. I'm really proud of our girls. To play six playoff games and only give up one goal is really special. It's a special group."
Darien (17-5) earned all the offense it would need with 5:14 to play in the first half. After controlling play for most of the early action, it seemed like only a matter of time before the Blue Wave would find the back of the cage.
"I didn't even know it went it," McLane said. "I didn't see the shot and didn't know I scored until my teammates came running at me. It was a great pass. I just wanted to get the shot off fast. We played with a lot of fire the whole game.
After losing to New Canaan in the FCIAC final, Darien has been able to refocus with the opportunity to win another state banner.
"We know we still had states and the girls have been able to focus on this goal," Darien coach Maureen Minicus said. "This team has shown so much fight. I'm really proud of them."
The Blue Wave came out aggressive and attacking from the start, resulting in three penalty corners in the first three minutes. Darien finished with an 8-2 edge in penalty corners for the game, but New Milford never allowed the Blue Wave to pull away.
"We work on penalty corners a lot, but just couldn't get one in," Minicus said. "I'm going to have to look at the film and find out what we weren't doing. New Milford did a good job packing it in on defense and making it hard for us throughout the game."
The second half started similar to the first with Darien controlling most of the action on New Milford's side of the field. Play was halted 2:57 into the half, however, when New Milford senior Natalie Capriglione was hit in the forehead with the ball on a hard shot that caused a cut and a lot of bleeding. The game was delayed for about 15 minutes until Capriglione was able to walk to the bench. She stayed on the bench for the remainder of the game.
New Milford made a handful of late charges in the finals minutes, but was never able to get clean looks against Darien's fast defense.
"We had no idea what type of team we would be before the season," New Milford senior Allison Noteware said. "We really came together and had a great season. I'm really proud and we accomplished a lot."
New Milford (18-2-2) was able to win its third SWC title in four years and set a single-season program record with 18 wins.
Meanwhile, Darien is left standing with a chance to earn its third straight title.
"We didn't want to hold anything back," McLane said. "We knew we had to come out strong. We felt after losing in the FCIAC final we had nothing lose."
DARIEN 1, NEW MILFORD 0
DARIEN 1 0--1
NEW MILFORD 0 0--0
Records: Darien 17-5; New Milford 18-2-2. Goals: Hannah McLane. Assists: Marissa Baker. Goalies: D--Kaeleigh Morrill (2 saves); NM-Madison Corso (8 saves). Shots: Darien 16, New Milford 2. Penalty corners: Darien 8, New Milford 1