Field hockey: Warriors return to state finals with convincing win

Before the Wilton High field hockey takes the field each game, the message from head coach Deirdre Hynes is the same: "Bring it."

In Tuesday's Class L semifinal game at Cheshire High School, the Warriors brought it.

The result was a 5-0 dismantling of second-seeded Conard, sending Wilton to the state championship game for the fifth straight year.

The sixth-seeded Warriors (17-5) will play fifth-seeded Cheshire on Saturday at Wethersfield High School. Cheshire beat top-seeded Glastonbury on penalty strokes on Tuesday.

"I really believe in my team. We had a couple of dips throughout the season and I think we learned from it and we recovered. I'm so proud of my team," said senior forward Maddie Duffy, who scored two goals to lead the Wilton scoring. "It's pretty unbelievable. I'm speechless right now."

Other Wilton goals were scored by Emma Rosen, Delaney Chase and Jillian Mahon, while Caroline Ferro had two assists and Bridget Ward and Meredith Rappaport each had one assist.

The Warriors may have played their best, most complete game of the season on Tuesday, passing the ball as well as they have all season and pressuring the Chieftains from start to finish.

The final tally in shots on goal was 14-4, and the Warriors finished with a 19-4 advantage in penalty corners.

"We had our scouting report and we knew exactly what to do, and I thought we really executed," said Mahon, the team's senior co-captain along with goalie Amanda Hendry (four saves).

Wilton jumped out on top quickly, scoring just 3:33 into the game after a great run up the right side by Ferro, whose centering pass was tipped ahead by Rosen, who then backhanded a shot into the cage. Over the course of the first half, shots by Ferro, Kat Campbell, Rosen and Ward were stopped by goalie Laura Keck, and several other hard shots went wide.

Wilton finally broke through again with 6:19 left in the first half when Ferro's shot from the arc was deflected to the left side of the goal, where Duffy knocked it in.

The Warriors had 13 total shots in the first half, and 10 corners, while the defense of Rappaport, Jess Hendry, Molly Thomas and Sophia Kaplan limited Conard to one shot.

The second half was also dominated by Wilton, which had two more corners before scoring on its third of the half with 22:51 left, when Ferro's hit from the top of the arc was deflected by Rosen in front and knocked in by Duffy.

Gwen Hall, who pushed the ball into the right side of the arc repeatedly in the second half, set up a good chance a few minutes later when a defender blocked an open shot by Julia Skillin.

Three corners later, the Warriors made it 4-0, with 15:22 left, when Chase scored to the left of the cage off a feed from Ward.

That was followed by a shot by Ferro that went wide, a blast by Ward that was blocked by a defender, and a shot by Molly Ward, set up by another good push by Hall, that was stopped on a save by Keck.

Wilton capped off the scoring with 3:14 left with its fourth penalty corner goal of the night, as Rappaport sent a great pass through the arc to a wide-open Mahon, who lifted a shot into the cage from five yards out.

Mahon said the team's tough schedule this season has prepared them to play at the level they showed Tuesday.

"Playing challenging teams has really helped us because we've grown as a team. Our passing patterns are better. We're just playing smart and that's how we need to be playing going into the final," she said. "Playing such hard teams like Mamaroneck, Darien, Lakeland, that really has propelled us into this game."

For the Warriors, getting back to the state championship game was a goal from the first day of practice. After falling to Daniel Hand by a goal in the Class M title game last year, after three straight championships, they are hungry to bring another banner back to Wilton.

"Coach Hynes, the one thing she keeps saying before every game is 'bring it', and I think we're going to take our anger, and how we felt last year from that loss, and we're going to bring it into the next game," said Duffy.

"Respect all, fear none," she continued, looking ahead to Saturday's game. "So we're going in knowing they're going to be a good team but as long as we're together and believe in ourselves and we bring it, we've got a good shot."

"No matter what, it's our last game as a high school player, so we just want to win so badly," Mahon said.