Field hockey: Wilton nips New Canaan on late goal

Emmie Arrix banged in a goal after a scramble in front of the cage with six minutes left to play to give the Wilton High field hockey team an exciting 1-0 win over New Canaan on Monday night at home.

The Warriors (14-1) locked up the second seed in the FCIAC playoffs, which begin on Saturday. Wilton improved to 11-1 in FCIAC play.

The Rams, who could have snatched the second seed with a win, dropped to 9-2-0-1 in the standings and are currently in third place.

The 1-0 decision was the smallest margin of victory of the season for Wilton, which has outscored opponents 55-2.

Coach Deidre Hynes said the game should help the Warriors prepare for what should be a very competitive FCIAC tournament.

“I think it was a good, challenging game to have going into the post-season. It was one of the only games where we didn’t have a comfortable lead,” said Hynes, whose team closes out the regular season on Thursday night at Brien McMahon.

Hynes said there would be no easy games in the FCIAC playoffs, and that any of the top four teams — Darien, Wilton, New Canaan and Greenwich — had the potential to win it all

“It’s going to be tough,” she said. “It’s anybody’s game.”

Monday night’s win was the tenth straight for Wilton since losing to Darien, 2-0, back on Sept. 26.

The Warriors dominated most of the game, especially in the second half when they had a 10-3 edge in penalty corners, and 9-3 advantage in shots at goal.

Unfortunately, they were repeatedly stymied by New Canaan goalie Emma Ball, who played an amazing game with 15 saves.

Wilton, getting aggressive play on the forward line from Megan Cunningham, Kailey Zengo, Arrix, Maggie Mendola and Delaney Chase, and from midfielders Madison Hendry, Delaney Baxendale, Annie Cornbrooks and Kristin Godin, took the ball into the arc repeatedly in the second half but couldn’t find the finishing touch to break the scoreless deadlock.

Ball made a remarkable diving save at the left post to deny Hendry on a penalty stroke with 18 minutes left in the game, and two minutes later made a tremendous kick save on a shot by Arrix from about five yards in front.

With eight minutes left, Hendry carried the ball past two defenders into the center of the arc, but Ball charged out and made the big save on a wide-open shot.

The winning goal came after an unsuccessful penalty corner, which was set up by a strong run into the arc by Cunningham, who had several explosive runs through the New Canaan defense in the game.

The penalty corner failed to deliver a shot, but the was carried back into the side of the arc by Jill Detrick-Yee, and eventually wound up in front, resulting in a scramble at the goal mouth with several Wilton players trying to get the ball past Ball. Finally, Arrix was able to knock it in from right in front.

The Rams didn’t go quietly. Although New Canaan’s offense had been for the most part defused in the second half by the Wilton backline of Detrick-Yee, Kylie Cafiero, Cornbrooks, Caroline Taverno and Godin, the Rams produced a couple of penalty corners with about five minutes left. But Wilton Lizette Roman-Johnston made a pair of tough saves to secure the win and notch her 14th shutout of the season.

The win put the final touch on a memorable Senior Night for the Warriors, who honored their eight seniors (and their parents) with a ceremony before the game.

Arrix, one of those seniors, was relieved to have been able to escape with the all-important win.

“We knew we had to do it and finish it and get the win. We knew we had to win for the seniors and the whole team,” she said.

“We were better at getting corners in the second half,” coach Hynes said. “The players executed. They just had trouble finishing on the corners. We have to learn to finish.”

For the night, Wilton had 13 penalty corners to New Canaan’s five, and out-shot the Rams 16-4.

Roman-Johnston finished with four saves.

Notes: Wilton’s eight seniors are Arrix, Hendry, Detrick-Yee, Roman-Johnston, Cornbrooks, Mendola, Cafiero and Zengo.