DARIEN—Every minute counts in the postseason.
The Darien High School field hockey team scored what proved to be the winning goal with 23.1 seconds left in the first half to defeat Ludlowe High, 2-1 in the FCIAC playoff quarterfinals Friday at Blue Wave Stadium.
Senior Kiki Tropsa tipped in a Kendall Wisinski shot at the left post on a Darien penalty corner to send the Blue Wave into Monday’s FCIAC semifinals.
“We struggled most of the season with penalty corners,” Tropsa admitted. “But we scored both our goals off penalty corners today. My goal was actually a broken corner play. But Kendall’s shot made it an easy tip for me.”
The victory means No. 3 seed Darien (14-2-1 overall, 13-2 FCIAC) will play No. 2 seed Norwalk in Monday’s FCIAC semifinal doubleheader (6 p.m., 7:30 p.m.) at Brien McMahon High School. Norwalk topped No. 7 New Canaan, 3-0 Friday night.
THE TARGET ON DARIEN’S BACK
In what has been an extremely contentious FCIAC regular season, the FCIAC semifinal matchups will be intense.
With Darien looking for its seventh FCIAC Championship since 2007, the biggest target is always on the backs of the Blue Wave.
“Every team in the FCIAC wants to beat us. We know the target is there and we expect their best,” Darien’s Tropsa said. “Rising to the challenge is our job. It’s fun to play this way.”
In the regular season, Darien lost 2-1 to No. 2 seed Norwalk but beat No. 1 seed Greenwich (1-0) and topped No. 5 seed Wilton (3-2, Oct. 12).
“Every position has each other’s back,” Tropsa said. “That’s how we succeed.”
LUDLOWE BUILDING A TRADITION
No. 6 seed Ludlowe (11-5-1 overall, 9-5-1 FCIAC) gave Darien a battle to the finish. The Falcons’ leading scorer senior tri-captain Lauren Beccaria took less than two minutes to answer the goal by Darien’s Katie Elders and forge a 1-1 tie midway through the first half.
Ludlowe forced Darien goalie Erica Blaze to make five saves in all.
The Falcons had a stretch in the regular season where they lost to Greenwich, Staples and Darien (1-0 Sept. 25) back-to-back-to-back.
“In that game, Darien scored in the opening five minutes and held on,” Ludlowe’s Beccaria said. “That game lifted our confidence because Darien is so tough.”
From there, Ludlowe was 8-1-1 to close out the regular season.
“The (10) seniors on this squad started with us as sophomores,” said Ludlowe co-coach Joe Skarupa. “They have put in the work and they understood this season was their chance. Three years ago, Ludlowe lost 8-1 to Darien. They’ve come a long way. And now they believe.”
Ludlowe will be dangerous in the upcoming state tournament.
“This is only the second team that Ludlowe field hockey has qualified for the states,” Beccaria said. “We’re hyped for the tournament. We know we can do damage.”
“We practiced our penalty corners so much. We reached a point where we said ‘Don’t outthink it.’ Today was a great job,” said Darien’s veteran coach Mo Minicus. “Ludlowe was so fiery. They never gave up. Our defense and our goalie came up big. Our girls have worked so hard. They’ve been responsive to our teaching. They know what’s on the line. But it’s always about being in this moment.”
FCIAC PLAYOFF QUARTERFINALS
DARIEN 2, LUDLOWE 1
LUDLOWE 1 0—1
DARIEN 2 0—2
Records: Ludlowe 11-5-1 overall, 9-5-1 FCIAC. Darien 14-2-1 overall, 13-2 FCIAC.
Goals: L—Lauren Becarria. D—Katie Elders, Kiki Tropsa. Assists: D—Bridget Mahoney, Kendall Wisinski. Goalies: L—Allison Wales (11 saves). D—Erica Blaze (5 saves).