Field hockey: Wilton beats Staples in OT to advance to semifinals

Emma Rothkop’s goal on a penalty stroke with 6:40 left in the second overtime period sent the Wilton High field hockey team to a 4-3 win over Staples, in Friday’s FCIAC quarterfinal match in Westport.

The fifth-seeded Warriors (11-4-0-1) advanced to Monday’s semifinals where they will take on top-seeded Greenwich at 6 at Brien McMahon High School.

Fourth-seeded Staples dropped to 11-2-0-2.

Friday’s game marked the fourth time in five games the last two seasons the two teams have gone to overtime. The Warriors had won the regular-season match this year, also on another Rothkopf overtime goal.

Wilton overcame a slow start to score three goals in the second half. The Warriors led by two goals twice in the half, only to have Staples fight back and eventually tie the game with four seconds left in regulation, on a penalty stroke.

“I thought we had our momentum going and were going to finish it out in the regular play of the game. The last few minutes Staples came on tough. They did not want to lose the game. Hats off to Staples,” said Wilton co-coach Toniann Cortina. “When you’re in the postseason you can’t count anybody out. The play is going to be tough.”

The Wreckers controlled the first half, either carrying or hitting the ball into the circle repeatedly, but couldn’t convert on multiple chances. Wilton goalie Megan Kaeyer made a couple of great saves early in the game to keep the Wreckers off the board.

The Warriors made it to halftime with the game scoreless, and then came out strong to open the second half with several pushes into the circle.

Wilton broke the tie with 20:30 left on a penalty corner, when Jess Hendry drilled a shot inside the post from the top of the circle, off a pass from Emma Rosen.

The Warriors went up 2-0 about five minutes later, after Olivia Hahn took the ball into the arc on a break. Goalie Bridget Mulloy made the initial stop but Hahn was able to knock the rebound in. The score had been set up by some determined play at midfield by Robin Clasby to win the ball and send it ahead for a two-on-one break.

The Wreckers answered with 13:38 left, after Kaeyer made a great diving save, only to have Meghan Johnson lift the rebound over her body and into the cage.

A few minutes later, right after Staples just missed on a chance to tie the game, Hahn’s pass through the midfield set up a breakaway by Rothkopf, who scored to put Wilton up 3-1 with 9:18 left.

Staples once again fought back, scoring with 8:30 left to make it 3-2, on a penalty corner as Alexa Moro knocked a ball in from near the post.

With the seconds ticking down, the Wreckers applied intense pressure to win the ball and send it into the circle to create chances. They had three corners in the final 1:30.

On the third corner, with under 30 seconds left, the ball wound up to the right of the goal, with several players fighting for control. The referee whistled a foul on Wilton, giving Staples a penalty stroke with four seconds left, and Liv Ekholdt put a shot inside the right post to tie the game 3-3.

Cortina and Wilton’s other co-coach, Liz Pisko, said they never got an explanation as to what the infraction was that led to the penalty stroke.

The Wreckers had some great chances to win the game in the first 7v7, 10-minute overtime period, with Kaeyer turning away one shot and another going wide.

Staples then had a golden chance to win in the first minute of the second overtime, after Christine Taylor took the ball into the circle and put a shot past a charging Kaeyer, only to have it go wide of the open cage.

The winning goal was set up when Sophia Kaplan won a ball in Wilton’s defensive end and sent it to midfield, where Hendry had a clear run to the arc. She executed a nice give and go with Hahn, but was knocked over from behind before she could shoot, leading to the penalty stroke.

Rothkopf then put a shot into the left side of the cage, that keeper Alexis Tuccinardi had no chance on, to win the game.

“We had our opportunities. It’s basically the story of our season, not being able to finish,” said Staples head coach Ian Tapsall. “The girls played their hearts out. It was an unbelievable comeback. It’s just the way the ball bounces.”

Kaeyer had another great game in goal to keep Wilton in the game, finishing with seven saves. The Wreckers finished with a 10-4 edge in shots on goal.

Notes: Wilton played the overtime periods without senior midfielder Emma Rosen, who hobbled off the field midway through the second half with what the Wilton coaches called either a muscle pull or muscle cramp. Her status for Monday's semifinal game in questionable.