Field hockey: Wilton makes statement in 3-1 win over Darien
Taking on the state’s two top-ranked teams in a span of five days, the Wilton High field hockey team managed to spoil both teams’ unblemished records.
Last Friday, the Warriors dominated top-ranked Staples, especially in the second half and overtime, but couldn’t finish off attacks and had to settle for a 0-0 tie in Westport. The Wreckers (8-0-1) had entered the game unbeaten and untied.
On Tuesday at home, Wilton overcame an early 1-0 deficit to beat second-ranked Darien 3-1, handing the Blue Wave (8-1) their first loss of the season.
The Warriors, ranked fourth in the state in last week’s poll, improved to 6-1-2. Wilton’s only loss is to Lakeland, N.Y., the top-ranked team in the MAX Field Hockey Northeast Region (New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island), and ninth-ranked team in the country.
In last week’s Northeast Region rankings, Staples was fourth, Darien sixth and Wilton seventh.
It took the Warriors some time to get going on Tuesday, but they became more aggressive as the first half progressed.
“Against Staples, we played excellent. We kept the pressure on. We did not do that at all in the first half,” said Wilton head coach Deirdre Hynes after Tuesday’s win.
In the second half, the Warriors were the aggressors, earning a series of penalty corners that ultimately proved the difference.
“I know we have it in us. When we play our game, I know what we’re capable of. I don’t think we’ve shown that yet for 60 minutes,” Hynes said.
Darien got on the board first, just over 10 minutes into the game, when Emily Gianunzio scored off a rebound of a shot by Katie Elders, on a penalty corner.
The Warriors picked up their intensity as the half wore on and tied things up on a corner with just over 10 minutes left in the half, when Caroline Ferro rolled a slow shot through goalie Kalli Coughlin’s legs from five yards out.
The second half saw a similar progression, with the Blue Wave having the better of the play early on and Wilton then taking over the momentum.
Wilton took a 2-1 lead with 16:15 left in the game, off another corner, when the ball rolled to the left post and Gwen Hall and Susan Clasby crashed the goal, with Clasby able to push the ball into the cage.
The Warriors added an insurance goal with 10:42 left to play, off another corner. This time the ball went out of the circle but was sent back in by Sophia Kaplan, redirected towards the goal by Meredith Rappaport, and then deflected by Emma Rothkopf, with Delaney Chase putting the ball into the cage.
“They were tougher in their offensive circle. We let up too many defensive corners in our 25.” said Darien coach Mo Minicus. “I don’t think we were tough enough. They were more aggressive.”
Hynes credited the play of Wilton’s second forward line (Hall, Clasby, Molly Ward, Olivia Hahn) with providing the spark midway through the second half that resulted in a series of corners, including the go-ahead goal.
“The second team that went out did a phenomenal job,” she said.
Defensively, Rappaport, Kaplan, Molly Thomas and Jess Hendry were solid and played smart, holding the Wave scoreless over the final 50 minutes. Emma Likely finished with six saves in goal, including a couple of big plays early in the second half to keep things tied.
Hall finished with two assists, while Rappaport had one assist and had a hand in all three Wilton goals.
Wilton finished with an an 8-7 edge in corners and 8-7 edge in shots at goal.
In Friday’s tie at Staples, the Warriors did everything they needed to do to win, except put the ball in the net.
The young, athletic Wreckers had two of their best chances early in the game, but put open shots wide of the cage. As the first half wore on, the Warriors began to take control, although they only had one shot on goal — in the final minutes of the half.
The second half was all Wilton, which kept Staples pinned in its defensive end nearly the entire 30 minutes. Despite five penalty corners and five shots at goal, the Warriors couldn’t break through the Wreckers’ last line of defense.
The best chance came in the waning second of the half, when Ferro blocked a hit and carried the ball into the arc, with Staples goalie Bridget Mulloy stopping her hard blast near the right post. Wilton also dominated the overtime period, but again was unable to break through for the winning goal.
For the game, the Warriors had a 7-3 edge in shots at goal and 8-2 edge in corners. Likely made three saves in goal.
“I thought 99% of the field they played amazing. I was extremely pleased with how they played and how they adjusted to Staples’ style of play. We just couldn’t get it over the goal,” said coach Hynes. “At first we had trouble getting shots on goal. In the second half they adjusted and got more shots on goal, and it was a matter of finishing.”
Hynes credited Emma Rosen, who shifted to more
of midfield position and helped key Wilton’s block that rarely allowed the Wreckers to cross midfield.
“Emma Rosen did a fabulous job adjusting to the formation that we did today,” she said.
Also keying the midfield effort were Bridget Ward, Madeline Pagliaro, Clasby, Chase, Kaplan, Thomas, Hendry and Rappaport.
Despite being pinned in their own end most of the game, the Wrecker defenders were poised and steady inside the circle, making the plays they had to make.
“I thought our girls played really well with the ball in the circle. They got rid of the ball very well. They didn’t panic, and our goalie Bridget kept us in it when she needed to make saves,” said Staples coach Ian Tapsall, who was happy to leave the field with the tie.
“The thing with Wilton is they all play field hockey. They’re familiar with how the ball bounces, they’re familiar with how the ball comes off their stick. What I’m trying to do is get lacrosse players to be field hockey players. The anticipation (Wilton players) may get on a daily basis playing club field hockey is not the anticipation my guys are getting,” he said. “But the compensation for that is within the effort and the fitness. I don’t think you can compare any team in the FCIAC with our fitness.”