WETHERSFIELD – In a rematch of last season’s final, a strong defensive effort by Cheshire served itself well during most of the Class L field hockey championship game against Darien on Saturday.
But the Rams had a pair of defensive miscues in the second half and the Blue Wave cashed in.
Hollis Perticone scored on a pair of penalty strokes, the first with 12 minutes, 50 seconds left in the second half to tie the game at 1 and then the go-ahead goal with 2:01 left to lead No. 1 Darien to a 3-1 win over No. 2 Cheshire at Wethersfield High. Both penalty strokes were awarded following penalty corners where Rams defenders fell inside the net and prevented a score.
Kyla Johns scored the Blue Wave’s third goal with 1:12 to go in the game.
“We wanted to play a defensive first half and then open it up in the second half,” Cheshire coach Eileen Gallagher said. “We played the hardest we ever played today and we did what we wanted to do. We couldn’t have played any better. Unfortunately, things happen in a game and momentum shifted too.
“I think we also got a little tired at the end. Darien is a very talented team. I don’t know if this stings yet, but I do know it’s sad to see our seniors go.”
Darien (21-1-1), which defeated Cheshire 4-0 in last season’s final, wins its ninth title overall, five in Class L and four in Class M.
“Cheshire is an incredible team, a real fighter,” Darien coach Maureen Minicus said. “We knew we would be facing a great team and we knew they wouldn’t die. The first half we had our chances to score, but their defense played us strong. We couldn’t get anything over the line.
“I think we ended up tiring them out. Our two penalty strokes were the result of our girls fighting and fighting. Hollis is amazing on penalty strokes and I was confident she would score both times.”
Both teams had their chances to score in the first half, but Cheshire goalie Maddy Levy and Darien goalie Danika Hornick came up with two quality saves each to keep the game scoreless at halftime.
The Rams became more aggressive on offense in the second half, especially Cheshire field general Michelle Federico, who seemed to be everywhere. It would be Cheshire’s Erica Stauffer who would get the game’s first goal off an assist from Federico.
With a scramble going on in front of Hornick, Federico was digging for the ball among two defenders. Federico chipped the ball to Stauffer, who one-timed a shot into the lower-right corner for a 1-0 lead with 26:03 to go.
“We did a good job of holding them for 25-30 minutes of the game,” Federico said. “And it felt good to get the score. But when they scored that first penalty stroke it hit us hard and I think we got down a bit.
“But we still had time, we worked hard and never gave up.”
Darien outshot Cheshire 19-5. Levy ended up with 13 saves and Hornick had four.