Field hockey: Warriors rally from two goals down to shock Darien in overtime, advance to state semifinals

Emma Rosen’s goal with 4:12 left in overtime capped off an improbable comeback for the Wilton High field hockey team, which rallied from a two-goal deficit with 21 minutes to go to defeat Darien 3-2 on Friday in the Class L quarterfinals in Darien.

The sixth-seeded Warriors (16-5) advance to the state semifinals next Tuesday or Wednesday, against second-seeded Conard, which edged 10th-seeded Staples, 1-0.

The third-seeded Blue Wave (20-2) suffered their first in-state loss of the season. Darien had beaten Wilton twice this season, including a 1-0 victory in the FCIAC championship game last week.

And on Friday it appeared the Wave would make it three-for-three against Wilton, after they controlled the play in the first half and went into halftime with a 2-0 lead.

But the Warriors came out aggressively and focused in the second half, and it paid off about nine minutes into the half when Jillian Mahon’s aerial shot on a penalty corner was deflected in the air by a Darien player’s stick into the goal.

It was Wilton’s first goal this season against the Blue Wave, after 159 scoreless minutes.

The play went back and forth, with both teams unable to capitalize on several corners. Finally, with 7:49 left, on another corner, Mahon sent a ball from the arc to the front of the goal, where it deflected to Delaney Chase. Her shot was blocked, resulting in a scramble in front that ended with Maddie Duffy knocking the ball into the cage to tie things up.

The teams went into sudden-victory overtime, playing seven vs. seven. Darien had a golden chance to end things about 4:30 into the overtime after a perfectly executed break, with Georgia Cassidy running onto Katie Elders long hit from the right side. But Wilton goalie Amanda Hendry made an unbelievable save to rob Cassidy and keep the game going.

A minute later, Rosen was able to dribble past a defender along the end line before putting a shot between goalie Kaeleigh Morrill and the post to win the game.

“I wanted to score. I wanted to win. I didn’t want the season to end, and I know my teammates didn’t either. Sophia Kaplan had an amazing ball, bringing it all the way up the field,” said Rosen of the game-winner. “The amount of heart my team has, we really brought it. The second half was all about capitalizing and trying to get ourselves back.”

“Losing FCIACs, that was probably the worst blow of the season. And we weren’t going to end off with that. We just wanted to go out with a bang,” said Mahon. “We never give up as a team. And sometimes, yea, we’ve lost and we never came back, like in the FCIAC finals. Today we knew we could and we believed. And all the parents were saying, ‘we believe’, in the stands, and that made us feel like we believed.”

Darien had plenty of chances to score in the first half, with a 12-0 edge in shots on goal and 8-0 edge in corners until Wilton got two corners in the final seconds of the half.

But Hendry, the North Carolina-bound goalie, kept Wilton in the game with 10 saves in the first half. Wilton also got many timely defensive stops by Kaplan and center back Meredith Rappaport, who was rock-solid on the back line along with Jess Hendry and Molly Thomas.

Darien seemed to have an extra step on Wilton in the half, winning the bulk of 50/50 balls, and was able to find space in transition for several breaks, many courtesy of Marissa Baker and Laura Schwartzman, plus a pair of pretty give-and-go plays by Elders and Olivia Hoyda that almost led to goals.

The Blue Wave finally broke through with 8:25 left in the half, on a corner, when Cassidy sent a ball through the arc to the far past, where it was knocked in by Schwartzman.

Darien made it 2-0 with 6:23 to go in the half,. This time, Cassidy took the ball into the right side of the arc and blasted a shot into the far side of the goal.

For almost all the first half, until the final minute, Wilton was kept out of the Darien end by a strong effort by Darien's back line of Meaghan Waldron, Abigail Hancock and Campbell Matheis, and midfielders Schwartzman, Sydney Schrenker and Kathleen Tropsa.

Wilton began the second half with its best pressure thus far of the game, but Darien quickly countered, with Hendry coming up with three more big saves to keep it 2-0. The Warriors, playing with more confidence and energy, came right back. After they scored their first goal, their confidence seemed to grow, with contributions from a deep group of players rotating in and out of the game — Chase, Mahon, Duffy, Rosen, Bridget Ward, Caroline Ferro, Gwen Hall, Julia Skillin, Molly Ward and Emma Rothkopf.

“They had to believe. I don’t think they believed in themselves in the first half. The last time we played (Darien), they gave it their all and we lost 1-0. Both previous times they played a solid 60 minutes and the outcome was not favorable, so I think they came in kind of second guessing themselves,” said coach Deirdre Hynes. “In the second half, when they regrouped mentally and physically and realized what they could do as a team, they started to believe in themselves. We’re just as good. We’re just as talented, and they needed that confidence builder.”

In the end, the difference was Hendry, who finished with 17 saves — the last being the amazing stop in overtime.

“I think that gives her some validation from the regular season and the tough FCIAC loss, too. That Amanda is this amazing goalie, and I think she showed everyone today exactly why she is,” said Hynes.

For the game, Darien had a 19-8 edge in shots on goal, 13-7 edge in corners.

“Credit to Wilton for capitalizing on our mistakes,” said Darien coach Mo Minicus. “I told the girls they have nothing to be ashamed about. They can be disappointed. It’s really disappointing. It’s a great team. We had a great season, a great post-FCIAC. And it was a great game today. I told them, this is sports. Someone wins and someone loses. We’re usually on the winning side. It’s a hard but great life lesson for them to absorb and learn from.”