FAIRFIELD >> Fairfield Warde High School’s field hockey team piled up the penalty corner chances, one after another – 23 in all for a decisive advantage over the visiting Fairfield Ludlowe Falcons, who mustered only two. It wasn’t enough. Fairfield Ludlowe fended off the Mustangs’ assault and eventually cashed in on a rare scoring chance, in overtime, to shock the Mustangs 1-0 Thursday evening at Tetreau/Davis Field.
Ludlowe freshman Melissa Bucher, a recent call-up from the junior varsity squad, scored on a rebound off a shot off the stick of senior Emily O’Keefe 5:14 into the 10-minute extra session. The goal sparked a celebration on the Ludlowe bench and gave the Falcons only their third win of the campaign. Warde, which has lost just once in regulation this fall, suffered its second overtime loss in the process. The Mustangs, who have played overtime in four straight contests, fell to 6-1-1-2 and the Falcons improved to 3-7-1.
“It was very relieving,” Ludlowe Coach Cathy Hamill said of the feeling when Bucher scored. “We were fortunate that we were able to keep the ball out of their cage on so many corners.”
Warde had nine penalty corners by halftime and didn’t get one in the second half until about 10 minutes into the period. Then they just kept coming. The Mustangs used pressure in the midfield to keep the ball on Ludlowe’s side of the field for almost all of the second half, and bulk of the time throughout the game.
Ludlowe goaltender Julia Ennis made 10 saves – only twice the number of stops here counterpart, Katy Stepsis, had to make. It could have been a lot more if not for the efforts of Ludlowe’s defenders to block shots and clear balls away from the goal.
“Our defense has been pretty solid,” said Hamill, adding that Ennis has also come up big for her squad.
“Their goalie is good but she never had to make a second save,” said Warde Coach Jodie Shannon, alluding to her team’s inability to get rebound opportunities.
“I know there’s a lot of anxiety playing a cross-town rival,” Shannon added. “I think anxiety took over.”
It looked as if Warde could take over control on the scoreboard at any moment. The Mustangs kept pressing and had to fend off very few Ludlowe chances until a late regulation opportunity and a sudden surge in the extra period. Warde’s Ashley Aufiero, Kelly Milicia, Sara Adams, Jenny Pehota and others racked up the chances. Milicia hit the near post less than seven minutes into the second half.
“We worked so hard. Even though they may have had more opportunities, we didn’t give up,” Bucher said.
Scoring the game-winner left the freshman searching for a description for how good it felt.
“That felt really great. It’s kind of hard to explain the feeling,” she said.
“We’ve been watching her play JV and she’s the full package,” Hamill said of Bucher. “She’s fast, she’s agile, she’s smart and she’s very coachable.”
The Falcons will look to build off this exciting win and the Mustangs will try to get back to their winning ways as the playoffs draw closer.
“We were on an upward stride and we took a big dip today,” Shannon said.