NORWALK — There are times, as an athlete, when it’s OK to be a little bit selfish.
Darien’s Katie Elders had the ball in the middle of a 3-on-2 advantage, but instead of passing, she shot and scored less than two minutes into overtime, giving the Blue Wave a 2-1 ClAC Class L quarterfinal win over Norwalk at Testa Field on Friday night.
“I had (teammates) on each side of me and I think the defense thought I was going to pass it, so I just took the shot,” Elders said. “The coaches won’t be too happy but I kind of shot it at her pads and it went between her legs and in.”
The victory puts the fifth-seeded Blue Wave into next week’s semifinals where they will face the winner of Saturday’s No. 1 Enfield-No. 9 Fairfield Ludlowe quarterfinal game.
Fourth-seeded Norwalk ended one of its best seasons in program history 16-4-0.
The Wave struck first to take a 1-0 lead late in the first half.
After fending off four straight Norwalk corners, the Blue Wave pushed the ball into its offensive zone and earned a corner for themselves.
Elders ripped off a shot that teammate Kiki Tropsa redirected into the cage for a 1-0 lead with 8:10 left in the first half.
Norwalk answered in the second half when Lily L’Archevesque picked up a ball at midfield and raced the final 50 yards, fending off would-be Blue Wave defenders and getting the ball past goalie Erica Blaze.
Getting one more touch on the ball, L’Archevesque got off a shot into the empty cage with 18:24 to play.
“It was a great effort by Lily,” Norwalk coach Kyle Seaburg said. “She’s been dealing with some injuries this season, but she showed what she’s made of on that play. She’s tough. She’s tenacious.”
Both teams kept battling, but neither was able to score again during regulation.
“It was a great game, a great battle,” Seaburg said. “They had opportunities. We had opportunities.”
Norwalk had the ball to start overtime, but couldn’t push too deeply into Darien territory before the Blue Wave got the ball.
As the Bears tried to get the ball out of their defensive zone, a turnover gave Darien the odd-man rush it needed.
Elders took the shot and the rest is history.
“She has a great push-past,” Darien coach Mo Minicus said. “She didn’t have to rip off a hard shot. She did what she had to do to score.”
Entering the overtime, which consists of 7-on-7 action, Darien felt it had the advantage because of its overall team speed.
“With the six players we had out there, I was confident we definitely had the speed advantage,” Minicus said.
Norwalk, however, had freshman phenom Tessa Albrecht, who might be one of the best ballhandlers in the league.
The Bears, however, couldn’t get her into a position to use that breakout speed.
“Norwalk is a great team,” Elders said. “We had to give it everything we had just to beat them.”
TITLE-WORTHY RUBBER MATCH
Norwalk beat Darien 2-1 in the regular season; the Blue Wave returned the favor with a 4-0 win in the FCIAC semifinals.
Monday’s showdown of league rivals was worthy of a state championship match as the two league heavyweights battled back and forth.
As many of the top FCIAC field hockey coaches know, when league rivals meet in the state tournament it’s usually a battle that is worthy of a final.
The CIAC tournament set-up doesn’t aim to place the best two teams in the final, though — seeding by overall record with no thought of strength of schedule.
“I remember a few years ago we met Wilton really early in the tournament,” Minicus said. “Sometimes it’s too bad because the loser of a game like this has to go home too early.”
After falling 4-0 in the league semifinals, and then falling behind to the Blue Wave early in this state game, Norwalk could have folded its tent.
This Bears team refused to do that and battled back beyond the 60 minutes of regulation.
“I’m so proud of these kids,” Seaburg said. “They fought. They never gave up.”
Darien outshot Norwalk 13-8. The Blue Wave also won the battle of corners 10-7.
Blaze had seven saves for the Blue Wave while Jessica Monteiro stopped five shots for Norwalk.
DARIEN 2, NORWALK 1 (OT)
DARIEN 1 0 1—2
NORWALK 0 1 0—1
Records: Darien 17-2-1, Norwalk 16-4; Goals: D—Kiki Tropsa, Katie Elders; N—Lily L’Archevesque; Assists: D—Elders; Goalies: D—Erica Blaze (7 saves), N—Jessica Monteiro (5 saves).