GREENWICH — In a game between the teams that entered the day with the best conference records, in part because of strong defenses, Darien’s Kendall Wisinski’s eyes lit up as a scoring chance was presented.
Wisinksi, a strong finisher, was able to capitalize with a shot while falling down just 9:07 into today’s highly anticipated match with Greenwich.
From there the Blue Wave defense took over, containing penalty corners and otherwise negating any quality shots to hold on for a 1-0 win.
“That’s field hockey for you,” Darien coach Mo Minicus said. “You get a lot of opportunities but it’s really hard to score a goal. It was a great breakaway we had in the first half, nice passing and we finished. Against a good team that’s how you’re going to score because their defense is so strong.”
The Blue Wave, which failed to qualify for the FCIAC final last year for just the second time in 10 years, improved to 7-0, a game ahead of the Cardinals, who were one of three teams that started the day unbeaten. Norwalk is 5-0.
Erica Blaze stopped four shots to get the shutout, while she was supported by strong play from Lindsey Wallach, Kerry Blatney, Kathleen Tropsa and Hannah Riegel. The midfield, with Bridget Mahoney in the middle, denied most transition play.
“They held them,” Minicus said. “We gave up a few corners — I have to figure out why — but our defense was tough. They made the play and they got it out quickly. We tried to counterattack. We have to work on our counterattack a little bit better. Greenwich is a great team. They have phenomenal stick skills, really patient, good defense. I thought we dribbled into them a little bit too much as opposed to using our stick skills, which I know we have.”
Greenwich was mentioned as an improved team, but perhaps not on the same pedestal with some of the other contenders in the preseason. The Cardinals made opposing coaches take notice with a 4-1 over Staples, and today’s showing, despite the outcome, further bolstered their status.
“They played great in all facets of the game, not just on defense,” Greenwich coach Ally Orrico said. “The score I don’t think indicates how much pressure we put on them on attack. Some of those corners, if the ball bounces a little differently, we almost scored on two or three of them. I’m very proud of the girls with the way they played. You’re always disappointed when you lose but I see this as a victory because this team has improved immensely since the first time we were together until today. I only see good things coming out of this game.”
Molly Hellman assisted on Wisinski’s goal, which was the result of a good rush.
“Molly Hellman put her stick right in front of the goalie and it was too close not to go in the goal, so I just laid out for it and thankfully it went in the left corner,” Wisinski said. “We had a lead the whole game but you always want to act like it’s 0-0. Getting that goal definitely gave us a good start.”
Wisisnki’s analysis of the Blue Wave’s performance was pretty similar to her coach’s.
“Our stick skills were a little sloppy,” Wisinksi said. “We definitely need to work on those, but our passing was definitely our strong part today and our defense was on fire.”
Darien has not yet allowed a goal this season, but the most difficult stretch of its schedule awaits, starting with Tuesday’s game against rival New Canaan.
“We’re still improving,” Minicus said. “The second half of our season is definitely the harder half of our season. The first half was really great preparation for this. Learn from this, take a note on how they move the ball well, take a note on how they defend well. And just keep working on what we need to work on.”
Maggie O’Gorman led several late surges by Greenwich, and her ball toward goal off an early second-half penalty corner created a scramble and nearly the equalizer. Emily Gunzburg played well in goal.
The Cardinals have to bounce back and play Norwalk on Wednesday.
“I know these girls and I know what they are capable of,” Orrico said. “They are capable of greatness, they just have to put it all together. I see this team on a par with everybody out there.”