Wilton ends Darien field hockey season in OT
DARIEN — The finality of the state tournament remains the cruelest thing.
Months of hard work, day after day. Then the season is over in an instant. Sticks and balls headed for storage.
In a clash with intensity worthy of a state final, the Wilton High School field hockey team ended Darien High’s 2015 campaign with a 3-2 overtime triumph Friday in the Class L quarterfinals at Blue Wave stadium.
After falling 2-0 in the regular season and 1-0 in the FCIAC championship final to Darien, Wilton got its revenge in this third matchup with the Blue Wave.
Trailing 2-0 at halftime, Wilton scored twice in the final 21 minutes to forge a 2-2 regulation deadlock.
The Warriors celebrated as sophomore Emma Rosen scored with 4:12 left in the first 10-minute, 7-on-7 overtime period for the win.
“I wasn’t expecting to score. I just wanted to get the ball in the crease. Then I saw it and said ‘Wow, the ball went in,’” Rosen recounted later. “Sophia Kaplan did the important work with ball possession down the field to make it possible.”
And now, No. 6 seed Wilton (16-5 overall) turns its attention to next week’s Class L semifinals against No. 2 Conard at a neutral site to be determined. Conard nipped Staples, 1-0 Friday.
“The girls have the next 24 hours to enjoy this,” said Wilton’s veteran coach Deirdre Hynes-Ormond. “Then we have business to finish.”
Darien had most of the ball possession but Wilton’s senior goalie Amanda Hendry had nine saves in the opening 30 minutes.
“I knew I had to play well. I did my thing. I did my best,” Hendry said. “Balls were coming from all directions. I just kept moving my feet.”
In the second half, Wilton gave Darien some of its own medicine in a sense.
The Warriors used their depth to keep fresh players on the field while Darien didn’t substitute as much as normal.
Wilton also pressured the Darien defense. In field hockey as in basketball, a pressing team doesn’t like to be pressed.
“They outshot us about 14-1 in the first half. We had to get chances close to their net,” Wilton’s Hynes-Ormond said. “We used fresh legs and gave Darien a taste of pressure. Our girls started believing in the last 22 minutes of regulation.”
On its fifth penalty corner of the day, Wilton senior Jillian Mahon lifted the ball under the crossbar for a 2-1 deficit with 20:52 left.
As Hendry (19 saves) kept frustrating Darien’s attack, the Blue Wave legs were tiring.
Their eighth penalty corner led to Wilton’s senior Maddie Duffy scoring on a rebound with 7:49 to go in regulation for a 2-2 tie.
The 10-minute, 7-on-7 overtime period opens up the field.
Still, it was Hendry — making two saves worthy of Henrik Lundquist — that set the stage for Rosen’s finishing heroics about a minute later.
“In overtime, it was just a reflex save. I saw the ball heading to the left side of the net and I just got it,” Hendry said. “It was a great save.”
“Amanda (Hendry) made the difference. She is such an agile goalie. She made incredible saves,” said Darien veteran coach Mo Minicus. “There were a number of chances I thought were going in.”
“For Amanda, today was validation that she is an amazing goalie,” Wilton’s Hynes-Ormond said. “Today she showed why.”
There was no question that Wilton’s familiarity with Darien helped its cause.
“Darien field hockey has such a great reputation and deservedly so. They are talented but they aren’t super heroes,” Wilton’s Hynes-Ormond said. “Teams across the rest of the state get wrapped up in Darien’s mystique. But we feel we’re just as talented. We just play the Darien team we know on the field.”
While Wilton’s five seniors are still playing, Darien’s 12 seniors saw a marvelous 19-2 season end.
The Blue Wave tears fell for quite a while after the sudden overtime conclusion.
“It’s a disappointing end. But there is no shame in what we accomplished this year. It was a great season,” Minicus said. “We didn’t like Wilton’s pressure in the second half and overtime. We were on our heels and Wilton capitalized. They took advantage of our mistakes. I feel bad for our great group of 12 seniors. They’re such great friends and now the season is over. It’s a hard reality.”
WILTON 3, DARIEN 2 (OT)
WILTON 0 2 1 — 3
DARIEN 2 0 0 — 2
Records: Wilton 16-5 overall; Darien 19-2 overall.
Goals: W — Jillian Mahon, Maddie Duffy (7:49 left regulation), Emma Rosen (4:12 left, 7-on-7 OT). D — Laura Schwartzman, Georgia Cassidy. Assists: W — Gwen Hall. D — Cassidy, Schwartzman. Goalies: W — Amanda Hendry (19 saves). D — Kaeleigh Morrill (7 saves).
Note: No. 6 seed Wilton meets No. 2 Conard in next week’s L semifinals at a neutral site.