DARIEN — As Darien’s Katie Cronin sprinted from her defensive end toward the other side of the field with 15 seconds left in the second and final overtime of Wednesday’s game with Manhasset, there was no doubt about her intentions.
This was a do-or-tie situation.
“I was running to the goal,” Cronin said. “I only had one thing in my sight and that was the goal, to get the goal. “I saw the goal and I thought I was going to get it. I got tackled pretty hard. Probably as I was shooting.”
Cronin was laid out with a hit that would not have been out of place on the same field five months earlier, when the Blue Wave football team was playing.
Cronin’s errant shot as time ran out kept the teams tied at 10-10, a result that left the Blue Wave with the obvious mixed feelings.
“We come away good because it was a good team effort, we played very well and I think we could have won,” Cronin said. “But it’s also disappointing because I think we could have won. You have to take the good and the bad out of it.”
Darien’s senior class is highly motivated by the realistic goal of winning four straight league and state titles.
It is highly ambitious. And very attainable.
Manhasset came in unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in several tri-state polls. Darien’s lone loss was a 13-5 decision to another Long Island school, Garden City, ranked highly in the same polls.
Darien is now 7-1-1, and it remains to be seen whether New Canaan, Ridgefield or Greenwich will offer the same test.
“Manhasset is probably going to be the best team we play,” Cronin said. “Going into our FCIAC schedule it should give us a lot of confidence to win FCIAC and state again. This team is better than any FCIAC team we’ll see so if we can keep up with them we can keep up with FCIAC.”
Wednesday’s game was highly entertaining, with the usual lead changes and quick momentum changes. Solid goaltending helped both teams, especially during the two sudden-death overtimes.
Asked if she was more pleased with her team’s play or discouraged that such a huge win was within grasp, Darien coach Lisa Lindley said, “A little of both. Obviously happy that we played a strong game. I thought there were two areas where we really lost the game and that was circle play, ground balls, lack of stick play, turning the ball over and we didn’t convert our shots. We had plenty of opportunities. Their goalie is good but we also put it right into her stick.”
Notice Lindley’s use of the word loss rather than draw, which she repeated on several occasions because that is both the way she is wired, and she knows what her team is capable of. Lindley said before the game that this would be a stern test but one her players were capable of passing with consistent play.
Manhasset scored twice in the first 4:09 and seemed headed for a big day. Madison Rielly was a demon playmaking behind the net, finding open teammates in front to account for five assists to go with one goal. Sarah Weppler was usually on the finishing end, scoring four times.
Darien tied the game with two quick goals, the first by Kaeleigh Morrill — who led the team with three — off a nice feed from Susie Ropp on a free position, and then Cronin scoring on a free position.
From there it was a tense, taut affair between two relentless teams. Manhasset twice more led by two goals, but Darien responded each time and took its first lead at 8-7 when Ropp converted off a free position. Cronin and Ropp again put Darien back into one-goal advantages, but Rielly tied the game at 10-10 with three minutes left, 13 seconds after Ropp’s second goal.
It was hard to imagine that would be the last goal of the game, but Manhasset sophomore Krissy Kowalski and Darien’s Carly Schoudel were spectacular in net the rest of the way. Schoudel’s save on Lauren Merola from in close set up Cronin’s final play.
There was much for Lindley to like as it pertains to the next five weeks.
“The things that you hope that they take away from this is when they are in a similar situation they can convert and gain confidence from it because they played a very good team tough,” Lindley said.