Field Hockey

Darien Strikes Early, Topples Staples In Early-Season Showdown

Darien’s Charlotte Domittner hits the ball upfield. (Matt Dewkett)

WESTPORT — When the Darien field hockey team scored twice within 84 seconds early in today’s game against Staples, there were no premature celebrations or easing of tensions.

As coach Mo Minicus and her players saw it, the light had not yet turned green and remained yellow.

“It feels really good to get up early initially but you know that you have to keep the mindset that a 2-1 game is very different and it could switch any second,” the Blue Wave’s Molly Hellman said.

The Wreckers quickly wrested away the momentum, but Darien’s defense, led by Charlotte Domittner, stood firm.

Evelyn Hidy’s goal with just over 18 minutes remaining gave the Blue Wave a 3-0 lead. They lost their shutout in the final seconds but came away with a 3-1 win in a meeting between the state’s two premier programs.

Darien goalie Catherine Vogt makes a save late in the game. (Matt Dewkett)

“I think it’s always exciting to play Staples,” Hellman said. “They are a strong team. I think we just really connected today and worked together really well. It was a great time to click early in the season.”

The win was the 301st of Darien coach Mo Minicus’ career.

“I was very pleased and I know full well they don’t have two of their best players, but I was pleased with how our team came out, how they passed the ball, how they moved the ball quickly, got a corner in the first couple seconds of the game,” Minicus said. “Our defense did a great job of stepping up to the ball. We executed when it counted.”

Staples (1-1) was without its two best players. Laine Ambrose sustained a broken arm in the preseason and Kyle Kirby has missed both games with a calf strain.

“It’s not as if there weren’t chances that could be put away,” Staples coach Ian Tapsall said. “I think it is so early in the season these guys have got to learn to take their chances, they have to get used to being in front of the goal and getting their feet in the right position and getting good shots on goal. That we haven’t gotten yet. But we will get there.”

Staples’ Mya Oldale and Darien’s Tala Garcia battle for the ball. (Matt Dewkett)

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Darien defeated Staples in last year’s FCIAC final. The Wreckers rebounded for a state semifinal win on their way to the title. The teams had met in the previous two Class L championship games.

That is one reason Minicus does not mind that the teams meet at the start of the season.

“It doesn’t matter but to be honest it’s kind of nice to play them early and then prepare to see them again as opposed to seeing them a week before FCIACs,” Minicus said.

Darien (2-0) dominated early and finally converted off a scramble 8:14 in. Staples goaltender Roxanne Augeri made several saves before Brinsley Rushe poked a shot into the goal.

Abigail Ragland leads a Staples’ attack. (Matt Dewkett)

“It was just a mad scramble and we just did what you’re supposed to do,” Minicus said. “Stay low, keep the ball away from your feet and Brinsley was there at the right place at the right time and knocked it in.”

Before anyone had time to settle, Hellman, who had been closely marked, gave a perfect feed to Catherine Duggan, who finished to double the lead.

“It’s nice but in a game like this it doesn’t mean anything. Two-zero can easily become 2-1 and it’s a whole new game,” Minicus said. “You want it to be like 3-0 or 4-0. Once we got the third, that felt great, even though there was still some time left.”

Darien’s Molly Hellman and Brinsley Rushe celebrate a goal in the first half. (Matt Dewkett)

From there the Blue Wave defense, a mixture of seniors and underclassmen, took over, while Catherine Vogt played well in goal.

“The defense did a really good job today holding their own,” Hellman said. “They were under a lot of pressure but handled it very smoothly.”

Isabella Deveney lifted a high shot into the goal off a penalty corner with 17 seconds left for Staples.

“Once Darien gets on a roll it is like going down a hill. It is tough to stop it,” Tapsall said. “They just came at us. We had a plan that didn’t work, that we hadn’t used before. We had to settle down. We didn’t settle down.”