DARIEN — Moments after the Darien girls soccer team had completed a 3-2 home win over New Canaan, a chant echoed from the field. It was the name of the player who had been most influential to the outcome.
The shouts were coming not from the fans, but from Humphrey’s Blue Wave teammates.
In a tour-de-force display, Humphrey scored a hat trick to help Darien defeat its biggest rival by a goal for the third time in this regionalized fall season.
“I think that today we knew New Canaan was going to come out to play really intense and we had to bring the aggression, and I think we did that often,” Humphrey said. “Stay composed and that led to our success.”
Humphrey scored in a variety of manners, with her winning goal, in the 58th minute, a showcase for her athleticism.
“Chole did very well,” Darien coach Leigh Parsons said. “Whenever you score a hat trick you can’t say you didn’t play well and it’s not your show. There’s a lot that goes into the goal. The goal always gets the highlights, the headlines. It is definitely deserving in this case. To score two great headers the way she did. The vision she had to tuck away that third goal was phenomenal.”
After New Canaan had twice answered goals by Humphrey, the speedy sophomore was able to chase down a long ball, a step ahead of New Canaan defender McKenna Harden. With New Canaan goalkeeper Emma Gibbens, who had come out, trying to get back, Humphrey deftly one-touched a ball that slipped just inside the far left post.
“She really does have the whole package,” Parsons said. “She has the skill, the athleticism, the speed and also that vision and that mental part of it. Slowing the game down, seeing the runs. A lot of girls wouldn’t have seen that keeper coming out as she’s running for the ball to just tuck it away. She’s got great attributes within the game of soccer and today she showed it.”
With a 9-0 record, the Blue Wave will be heavily favored, with a game remaining against winless Westhill, to complete the regular season unbeaten. That will make it the top seed in the West Region playoff and could possibly set up one last meeting with New Canaan.
Today’s game was much more wide open than the first two meetings, which Darien won by 1-0 and 2-1 scores.
“To lose three times by one goal is tough, frustrating,” New Canaan coach Richard Hickson said. “You have to hold your hands up and give Darien credit, give Leigh and his coaching staff credit for their fantastic season.”
Humphrey, who is 5-3, put Darien up 1-0 in the 17th minute by getting in the air and heading home a corner kick.
The Rams (5-3-1) answered moments later on a nifty play, with Dillyn Patten making a perfect through pass to Kaleigh Harden, who was able to get a shot past Darien goalkeeper Jillian Fox.
New Canaan later would lose Harden before halftime to an ankle injury.
“She’s an absolute nightmare to play against because she does not stop,” Hickson said. “And she’s effective. She’s quick, she’s strong and she gives defenders a hard time. It was a tough loss.”
Humphrey put the Blue Wave back in front just after the second half started, again using her head to finish off a delivery by Francesca Highton.
But the Rams equalized in the 49th minute on a brilliant shot by Courtney O’Connell, taken from about 30 yards out and ending up high into the net.
The set the stage for Humphrey’s nicest and deciding goal.
“New Canaan is super, super strong,” Parsons said. “To play any team a couple of times, especially three times, they’ve had a very good few years and they’re a very similar team. It’s a testament to our girls to beat a team like that three times.”
Hickson and his players are hoping to get one final chance to face Darien next week.
“We had a couple of chances in the first half,” Hickson said. “We hit the post and there were a couple of balls popping in the air and we were looking to put a foot behind it and put it in and we weren’t able to take those chances. When you are playing against opposition like this in a highly competitive game, those kind of things come back to bite you a little bit. We have to be happy we are creating chances, it was a competitive game. I thought we edged it in the first half and maybe they slightly edged in the second so it was even in that sense.”