Field hockey: Warriors stun Norwalk, 5-1

It hasn’t been a typical season for the Wilton High field hockey team, at least by the standards of a team that’s won state titles four of the past six years.

The defending FCIAC champs entered the final week of the regular season in sixth place in the FCIAC playoff standings, and didn’t receive a single vote in the most recent Connecticut Field Hockey Coaches Poll.

But with its dominating 5-1 win over Norwalk on Friday, the Warriors served notice that they’re not going anywhere.

“It’s our senior year. We want to go out with a bang. We want to win both FCIACs and state, and that’s what we’re really gunning for,” said senior captain Jess Hendry, who scored three goals in Friday’s win.

“We’ve been telling them all season long what they have the potential to do, and finally the last few days it just clicked,” said Wilton co-coach Toniann Cortina. “Hopefully we can keep up this momentum and go into the postseason with this.”

The win improved Wilton’s season record to 10-4-0-1, with one game left on Tuesday night (6) at home against Trumbull.

“We worked on specific things at practice the last few days in preparation for this game. Basically everything we did in practice they did in the game and they executed it perfectly,” said Cortina. “The movement on the field was fantastic.”

Norwalk, which entered the game ranked third in the state, dropped to 12-2-1.

Rounding out Wilton’s scoring was Emma Rothkopf with a goal and two assists, and Olivia Hahn with one goal and one assist.

Wilton finished with a 15-4 advantage in shots on goals. Jessica Monteiro had 10 saves in goal for the Bears, and Megan Kaeyer had three saves for Wilton.

Both teams had seven penalty corners.

Wilton came out and immediately challenged, in the second minute, with a wide-open scoring chance that it couldn’t finish.

But it set a pattern for the rest of the game, with the Warriors initiating attacks from the back with outstanding ball movement to get the ball behind the Norwalk defense for breaks. The midfield of Emma Rosen, Sophia Kaplan, Sophia Kammerman and Molly Thomas did a great job all game connecting the back and front lines.

“At practice we’ve really been working on our passing and I think that really showed a lot. It was mostly a passing game today. Usually it’s individual but I think we’ve grown as a team,” said Hendry. “We have very good defenders who get the ball out. It was a really young and new defense, but they’ve really grown throughout the season.”

It was a connection from the back that led to the first goal, as center back Molly Ward sent a ball to Hahn in midfield, setting up a three-one-one break that ended with Hendry scoring off a feed from Rothkopf with 20:54 left in the first half.

Both teams had offensive chances over the next 10-12 minutes, with Norwalk’s Tessa Albrecht creating a couple of good scoring opportunities that were shot or deflected over the cage.

The Warriors used another counterattack to make it 2-0 with 7:57 left in the half. The play started with a Norwalk penalty corner, as Albrecht’s shot was blocked and cleared to midfield, eventually leading to a two-on-none break that ended when Hahn’s shot hit the post and was knocked in by Hendry.

The Warriors came very close to scoring again with six minutes to go, as Rosen, who was outstanding in the center midfield, dribbled into the arc and got a shot off that goalie Jessica Monteiro turned away.

The Wilton defense — Ward, Sophia Mercado and Alyssa Murphy — made the plays they needed to make in the first half to defuse potential danger, with midfielder Robin Clasby making two or three key plays, as well, to end dangerous-looking situations. As usual, Kaplan was all over the field at the top of the defense to make plays and initiate attacks.

Wilton took a 2-0 lead into halftime.

The second half was all Wilton, which increased the lead to 5-0 before Norwalk’s Lily L'Archevesque spoiled the shutout with 10 seconds left to play.

Rosen, Rothkopf and Hendry all had good scoring chances early in the half, and with 23 minutes left Monteiro stopped Hahn’s shot on a two-on-none break.

At 21:18, Wilton was awarded a penalty stroke, after a strong run up the left side into the arc by Hahn, whose aggressiveness and speed had the Bears under the gun the entire game. Rothkopf put the stroke into the left side of the cage to make it 3-0.

The Warriors never took their foot off the pedal, making it 4-0 at 17:46 on another counterattack, with Hahn scoring in front off a feed from Rothkopf.

Norwalk had some chances under the 15-minute mark, with L'Archevesque’s shot hitting the post and another shot deflected wide. But other than that, the Wilton backline — Ward, Mercado and Murphy, along with Kimberly Castano  — cleared away anything dangerous inside the arc. The defensive effort was even more impressive given that the Warriors were without senior starting back Maddy Pagliaro.

In the final 10 minutes, Wilton continued to push, with Monteiro making saves on good shots by Thomas and Kaplan, before Hendry scored for the third time on an assist from Rothkopf with 36 seconds left.