Field Hockey

A Veteran And A Rookie Help Lead Staples, Darien To Class L Semifinal Wins

Staples’ Kyle Kirby (left) and Norwalk’s Jackie Cota rush to the ball. (John Nash)

WESTON — Kyle Kirby and Ryan Hapgood are on opposite ends of their high school field hockey careers.

On Saturday, though, they’ll find themselves at the same place — Wethersfield High School for the CIAC Class L championship game.

Kirby, a senior at Staples, had a goal and two assists while Hapgood, a freshman at Darien, netted her first career hat trick to lead their teams to victories in tonight’s semifinal doubleheader at Weston High School.

Fourth-seeded Staples defeated ninth-seeded Norwalk by a 3-0 score while earlier in the day second-seeded Darien bested Ridgefield by a 4-1 count.

For Kirby, it means ending her career on the final day of the season again as she’s been a part of three successive state championship teams at Staples.

Staples’ Julia DiConza races after the ball against Norwalk. (John Nash)

“This is my fourth time,” she said. “I’ve never played a season where I didn’t get a chance to play on the last possible and me and (fellow senior) Grace Cooper are so fortunate for that. We’re really excited to see what the weekend holds.”

After a scoreless first half against the Bears in which Staples peppered Norwalk goalkeeper Kiki Taiyanides with 11 shots only to get denied each time, the Wreckers erupted for three goals in the second half.

“I tell these guys all the time it’s about shot selection and poise in the circle,” Staples coach Ian Tapsall said. “You just have to keep plugging away and plugging away.”

It was Kirby who finally found teammates open twice for the first two goals of the game, coming 12 minutes apart to give Staples a 2-0 lead.

Kirby fed Julia DiConza, who was wide open at the back post, for a 1-0 lead and later connected with Maya Reiner to make it a 2-0 game.

Norwalk goalie Kiki Taiyanides (77) clears a ball while surrounded by several defenders. (John Nash)

Kirby capped the scoring with a goal of her own courtesy of an assist from Ella Bloomingdale.

“That’s a team that puts the ball in the net,” Norwalk coach Kyle Seaburg said. “They get around it and they get hungry. We just had a couple of letdowns and left people open.”

The spread could have been worse if not for the play of Taiyanides, who almost stole the show with 19 saves.

SIGN UP FOR OVERTIME, THE NEW RUDEN REPORT NEWSLETTER

“Kiki played a great game,” Seaburg said. “She’s only a sophomore and she’s learning the position as she goes, but she’s done a great job. She kept us in the game and that’s all you can ask.”

Staples goalie Roxanne Augeri made one save.

The Staples win set up a rematch against FCIAC rival Darien.

Advertisement

The two teams, which split the FCIAC championships two weeks ago following a 0-0 tie, are quite familiar with each other and evenly matched.

“It’s a coaching match,” Tapsall said. “That’s what it comes down to. Every player on each side is equally matched in all departments, so it’ll come down to coaching, effort and lucky bounces. It’s going to be a great game, that’s for sure.”

Darien’s Ryan Hapgood is embraced by teammate Raina Johns (9) after Hapgood scored the first of her three goals. (John Nash)

Darien got there when Hapgood, a late-season call-up from the JV team, exploded for her career-high three-goal game.

“I was just expecting to go out there and have fun and do whatever I could to help my team,” she said. “Getting pulled up the end of the season, I was just expecting to sit on the bench, so getting the opportunity to play has been just so amazing.”

Darien coach Mo Minicus said she has been impressed with everything she’s seen out of Hapgood this season.

“She showed up to play,” the veteran coach said. “She’s such a good little athlete, a quiet player who does her job and does it well. She’s smart and she knows where to be and when to be there, and she’s calm under pressure and finishes.”

Bella Carrozza pushes the ball upfield for Ridgefield. (John Nash)

Hapgood wasted little time in making her presence felt, scoring just 70 seconds into the game.

“It was off a corner and we’d been practicing corners for a long time,” Hapgood said. “It was great for the whole team because it takes a team to score on one of those.”

Ridgefield settled down and controlled the possession game for much of the first half.

A quick Darien rush, however, led to Molly Hellman’s goal with 6:22 left in the half, which doubled the lead for the Wave.

Darien’s Molly Hellman cuts in front of Ridgefield’s Olivia DeStefano and Aly Gagnon (15) to play a ball. (John Nash)

Hapgood then scored Darien’s two second-half goals to keep the Tigers at bay.

“The score doesn’t reflect the game at all,” Ridgefield coach Jessica Smith said. “We possessed it as much as they did if not more, but they were just able to capitalize on those quick scoring opportunities.”

Ridgefield got its lone goal in the second half on a penalty stroke.

Aerin Krys netted the stroke, just slipping the ball past Darien goalie Monisha Akula (3 saves), which cut the Darien to lead 3-1 at that point.

Ridgefield goalie Lisa van Gompel made nine saves for the Tigers.

Despite the loss, Ridgefield wrapped up the season with a 16-3-0-2 mark, the best in school history.