Wilton field hockey tips New Canaan, earns return trip to Class L final

NORWALK — Eva Filipponi and her Wilton field hockey teammates have had the date circled on their calendars since the start of the season: November 19.

That’s the day of the state finals and for the Warriors, the moment has finally arrived.

Filipponi and the defense delivered a shutdown performance and Riley Fitzgerald scored the game’s only goal to lead second-seeded Wilton to a 1-0 victory over No. 6 New Canaan in the CIAC Class L semifinals Tuesday night at Testa Field in Norwalk.

“It’s a great team,” Filipponi, a junior, said. “Everyone on the team deserves to be on the field, we’ve all worked together this whole season to get to where we are right now. We’ve had this goal the whole year: Get to Nov. 19, play this Saturday and to be in this moment is just amazing.”

Wilton (18-2-1-0) will face No. 1 Darien (22-0-0-0) in the Class L final in Wethersfield on Saturday at a time to be announced. The Blue Wave defeated Glastonbury 5-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal, and beat Wilton 4-1 earlier this year.

The Warriors are making their second straight appearance in the title game, after losing to New Canaan 3-1 last season. Wilton made a magical run to that final, and beat Darien 3-2 on penalty strokes in the semis.

Wilton looked to build on that finish this fall..

“We talked about picking up from where we left off last year,” Wilton coach Leon Kerr said. “We didn’t start strongly, but once we straightened everything out, we started to move forward and put our plan into place.”

New Canaan (16-5-0-0), which lost to Wilton by a single goal twice, had many chances on Tuesday, and had the better of play during the first half, but simply couldn’t break through.

“It was a great game and I’m so proud of this team,” New Canaan first-year coach Megan Cunningham said. “They’ve worked so hard and they’ve shown up when they needed to. What really got us is we didn’t execute on our outcomes. That’s a bummer, but it happens sometimes and walking away from this season, I couldn’t be prouder.”

Fitzgerald, a junior, scored 57 seconds into the second half after the Rams and Warriors played scoreless in the first half. Senior Nola Ryder assisted on the play.

“We discussed (at halftime) that we needed to settle down, not get flustered and play our game,” Kerr said. “Once we play our game, we’ll be fine.

We had quite a few chances and we could have gone up some more, but that’s how it is.”

New Canaan had the ball in and around the circle several times while trying to equalize in the fourth quarter. Seniors Polly Parsons-Hills and Shawna Ferraro led the attacks.

Wilton’s defense, which featured Filipponi, Ashleigh Masterson, Katherine Costanzo, Elizabeth Kendra and Madeline O’Neill among others, was tough to crack, despite that pressure by the Rams.

After the loss, Cunningham praised the Rams’ improvement this season, an example of which was their 2-1 win over Staples in the Class L first round. The Wreckers had handled New Canaan 4-1 in week one of the regular season.

“They did what they needed to do this season and they grew, which is awesome,” Cunningham said. “That was our first FCIAC game and the difference between those games was incredible to see. The amount of heart that every single person has put into this season has been amazing.”

David.Stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Eva Filipponi, Wilton: The Warriors’ junior goalie collected six saves and led a defensive effort which held off consistent pressure from New Canaan

QUOTABLE

“I couldn’t ask for better support back there and we were able to keep the ball out as much as possible, especially in the last five minutes. There was so much movement in our circle, so keeping the ball out and running the clock as much as we could was really, really important.” - Wilton goalie Eva Filipponi

No. 2 WILTON 1, No. 6 NEW CANAAN 0

New Canaan 0 0 0 0 - 0

Wilton 0 0 1 0 - 1

Wilton: Riley Fitzgerald 1g; Nola Ryder 1a.

Goalies: NC - Ellie Rosen 10 saves; W - Eva Filipponi 6 saves.

Records: New Canaan 16-5-0-0; Wilton 18-2-1-0.