DARIEN – In this, the abnormal year of a coronavirus pandemic, very little in life — especially sports — is the same as it used to be. High school field hockey teams, for example, are playing a shortened, 10-game season against just regional opponents. Nobody knows if there will be a postseason, or if they will even get through the regular season.
But when the FCIAC fall season opened today with New Canaan playing at Darien, a sense of normalcy seemed to return, at least for one day.
It was a typical New Canaan-Darien contest. The ones we’ve all seen for so long on so many different fields, courts or rinks between the long-time rivals; one filled with emotion, enthusiasm, passion and excitement. And, oh yeah, a thrilling finish.
Shawna Ferraro blasted a shot past Darien goalie Grace La Du 4:42 into overtime to lift New Canaan to a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over its arch rival.
“You could just feel the energy on the field,” Ferraro said after the game. She was really referring to the Rams’ comeback that saw them score twice in the final seven minutes of regulation, but could have easily been talking about the rest of the contest as well.
Ferraro’s goal was at first controversial. She controlled the ball right at the line of the half-circle, a line the ball must be inside for a shot to count. Her reverse shot flew over the shoulder of a helpless La Du and the celebration — the likes of which may not be seen again this season in the FCIAC considering the opponents — had begun.
“I used to not have any confidence in my reverse shot,” Ferraro said. “I wanted to show myself I could do it. So I whacked it with all I got.”
When Ferraro’s shot went in the goal, both teams hesitated before reacting. Maybe it was because everyone didn’t realize it was sudden-death overtime, or maybe it was just that nobody wanted this special opening day to end.
“We’re grateful to have any games,” New Canaan coach Mary Clare Snediker said. “We are treating every game like it’s our last.”
“We’re dealing with it as best we can,” Darien coach Mo Minicus added. “You never know when it’s going to end.”
The end today came later than expected, especially after Darien’s Evelyn Hidy, following a first-half goal by Sarah Bogdan, scored on a beautiful backhand shot in the 16th minute of the second half to give the Blue Wave a 2-0 lead. It was still 2-0 with just over seven minutes remaining.
“We talked before the (final 15 minutes),” Snediker said. “We were doing the right things but we couldn’t score. At that point it was a do or die situation. I said let’s see what you’re made of.”
Enter Rams forward Molly Mitchell. She cut Darien’s lead to 2-1 on a perfect shot from 10 yards out off a corner with 7:10 remaining, and then got the equalizer with 1:46 left when her shot — again off a corner — from the left of La Du (seven saves) was deflected and found the back of the net.
“We are definitely not in shape,” Minicus said of the late-game collapse, effectively warning her team about tomorrow’s practice. “We work on fitness but this was New Canaan’s first game, too, and they had more energy late in the game. They ran circles around us. But we had our opportunities.”
One of those was a breakaway by Hidy early in the second half. Her shot was stopped by New Canaan goalie Megan Lydon (five saves) but a cramp suffered as Hidy closed in on the goal did not help.
So after Mitchell’s two goals it was a 2-2 game, not a 3-2 Darien lead. That set up the game-winner by Ferraro.
“I pushed the ball into the circle before I shot,” Ferraro said. “I made sure of it.”
Immediately after Ferraro’s goal, Minicus went to the official complaining that the shot was taken outside the circle. A judgment call was not going to be overturned but Minicus later received proof watching tape of the game.
“My defender said (Ferraro) was outside the circle, and she was,” Minicus said. “But I saw the tape and the ball was inside the line and only the ball has to be inside the line, so it’s good. It was a super shot.”
A super shot to decide the game in overtime: a much-needed day of normalcy in the New Canaan-Darien rivalry.