Field hockey: Wilton's advances on Ward's goal

After going scoreless in last week's FCIAC championship game loss to Darien, the Wilton High field hockey team's scoreless drought extended another 39 minutes in Wednesday's Class L state playoff opener.

Bridget Ward's goal nine minutes into the second half finally ended the frustration, and that was enough to send the sixth-seeded Warriors to a 1-0 win over 11th-seeded New Milford.

Wilton finished with a 15-0 advantage in penalty corners, and 7-0 edge in shots at goal, but for coach Deirdre Hynes it was a disappointing performance, considering what was at stake.

"We came out extremely flat. I don't think they took New Milford for granted. I just think we didn't show up today. We, personally, Wilton, didn't show up ready to play today and we were lucky to walk out of here with a 1-0 win," she said. "At times we looked fantastic, and we can for 20 minutes at a time, and then for two or three minutes we make too many mental errors."

The game's only goal came off a corner, after New Milford goalie Madison Corso made a save on a deflection in front by Delaney Chase. That resulted in a scramble in front of the goal, before the ball rolled to Ward, who knocked the ball into the cage.

The Warriors (15-5) advanced to the quarterfinals — a rematch with Darien on Friday at 2 in Darien. The third-seeded Blue Wave (20-1) defeated Newington 5-0 in the first round.

"They need to come out with a whole new mindset. They can't come out like this, and they know that," Hynes said. "They made too many mental mistakes for that to happen this late in the season."

The Warriors kept the pressure on New Milford the entire first half, but couldn't cash in on many opportunities. They appeared to have scored about 12 minutes in, on a corner, when Jillian Mahon's aerial shot hit the crossbar and went in, but the official ruled the ball had not left the arc before Mahon got off the shot.

New Milford escaped another close call with 6:30 left in the first half, when Caroline Ferro's hit deflected off a New Milford stuck, hit the post, and then rolled the length of the goal line without crossing over. Three minutes later, Gwen Hall rolled a pass from the end line to the middle of the arc, but Sophia Kaplan's shot was blocked at the post by a defender.

A minute later, on a corner, Ferro's shot was deflected towards the left post, where Mahon's attempt to knock it into the cage was also blocked by a defender.

Wilton went on the attack quickly to start the second half, with Ward's push into the arc setting up a corner just 30 seconds into the half. Ward then got off a hard shot that Corso stopped. On another corner a short time later, Corso made the save on a blast by Mahon, with the ball then rolling just wide of the post.

After Ward's goal, Wilton had more chances to add to the lead, with shots by Emma Rothkopf and Hall rolling just wide. New Milford, which generated a little more offense in the second half, finally got the ball into the arc with 3:40 left, forcing goalie Amanda Hendry to kick the ball clear.

"We're definitely young and inexperienced. We graduated a dozen seniors last year that went to the state semifinals," said New Milford coach Dawn Hough. "We had our chances to get up the field. We crossed a couple. Nobody was there. The girls kept playing hard. It was a good game."