Field hockey: Rams rally past Warriors, 2-1

Coming off two losses in its three previous games, both 1-0 defeats, the New Canaan field hockey team was facing a familiar fate on Thursday, down 1-0 at halftime against Wilton.

But the Rams turned the game, and perhaps their season, around with two second-half goals, to beat the Warriors 2-1 in an entertaining, back-and-forth battle at Dunning Field.

Cameron Dayton scored the game-winner with 2:47 left, after a quick counter by the Rams and excellent setup by Ellery Baran.

With the win, New Canaan improved to 9-3-1 overall, and 8-3-1 in the FCIAC, moving to within a point of Wilton for second place in the FCIAC standings. The Warriors dropped to 9-4 overall and 9-2 in the FCIAC.

Both New Canaan goals came on similar plays: A quick push up the right side, a long pass by Baran, and deflection past Wilton goalie Amanda Hendry.

“We knew we weren’t going to get any easy goals against this team. Wilton is very well-coached and their goalie is a national level goalie. So we knew we really had to move her and kind of catch them on a fast break, which is what we did,” said New Canaan Coach Erin Gildea. “We couldn’t just take easy shots. She’d have a field day with that.”

Wilton took an early 1-0 lead just 4:19 into the game, on a penalty corner, when Caroline Ferro knocked in a rebound after Emily Conley made a save on Emma Rosen’s blast from the left side of the arc.

The Warriors had a 4-1 edge in corners in the first half, which saw the action go up and down the field, with both teams having chances. The Rams, using long hits and their speed and athleticism, got the ball into the Wilton end repeatedly.

Not long after the Wilton goal, Hendry stopped a blast by Meredith Heaney. With under 13 minutes to go in the half, a quick push by the Rams produced a corner, where a nice exchange by Heaney and Olivia Hunsinger led to Heaney’s open shot, which Hendry stopped.

Wilton had some good pressure in the final eight minutes of the half, including a pair of corners that were unsuccessful.

Wilton came out strong to start the second half, when Rosen’s hit to the left of the cage nearly deflected in by Jillian Mahon. A minute later, on a corner, Mahon’s aerial shot went high, and Maddie Duffy also got off a shot a short time later.

The Rams tied the game with 25 minutes left, as Baran took the ball to the right corner and rolled a ball through a pack of players to the left of the goal, where it was directed in by Mariana Ferreira.

After Hendry stopped a shot by Heaney, Wilton had a chance when Julia Skillin sent the ball in and Delaney Chase and Emma Rothkopf were both in front trying to knock the ball past Conley before it was cleared

With about 12 minutes to go, on a New Canaan corner, Rhian Ball’s shot from about six yards in front was stopped on a huge save by Hendry.

Wilton came painfully close to taking the lead with a little over three minutes left, on a corner, as a sequence of passes from Bridget Ward and Mahon led to a pass in front by Ward, with Gwen Hall’s shot rolling wide of the right post.

The Rams then went right down the field and scored the game winner about 30 seconds later, as Baran again made the play in the right corner to deliver a hit into the arc that Dayton, standing about five yards in front of the right post, deflected into the left side of the cage.

Wilton pressured right to the very end, with Conley making a save on Mahon’s aerial shot, on a penalty corner, as time expired.

Wilton finished the game with a 9-5 edge in corners, and both teams had five shots at goal. Hendry made three saves for Wilton and Conley four saves on the Rams.

“I’m really, really proud of them,” said Gildea of her team. “We’re coming off a tough couple of weeks. We haven’t had our starting lineup for a single game this season. We were missing two starters today. They deserved that win and they earned it.”

Wilton Coach Deidre Hynes said New Canaan’s aggressive play was the difference.

“They’re very fast and aggressive, and they beat us to every 50/50 ball, especially in the second half. And we were very flat. And they outplayed us and out-hustled us, and it paid off on a couple of fast breaks that they capitalized on,” she said. “When New Canaan was pressuring us, we seemed to fall for their pressure. We seemed to hesitate. We hesitated on 50/50 balls. We hesitated on free hits. We hesitated marking up. And they capitalized on all our lack of aggressiveness.”

Hynes said the Warriors needed to make the most of their opportunities, particularly situation such as the penalty corner late in the game that could have broken the tie.

“Now we learned the hard way, when you have one opportunity you need to capitalize on it. In the post-season, you don’t play tomorrow,” she said. “And (New Canaan) took advantage of it and scored. A lot can happen in a matter of seconds in a game.”

“That’s one of our strengths as a team, our speed,” said Gildea. “We’ve been a little timid in our previous games, so we were really trying to come out and be more aggressive and go to the ball. And I told the girls that if they did that, that our speed was a weapon and we would be able to catch teams in transition. And then it’s just a question of having girls ready to finish in the circle, and they did today.”