— Mary Albl (@MaryAlbl) October 30, 2015
FAIRFIELD >> Come playoff soccer, it truly is survive and advance.
Friday afternoon at Tetreau/Davis Field, the Darien girls’ soccer team rode that sentiment to a thrilling FCIAC quarterfinal victory over Fairfield Warde, 9-8 in three rounds of penalty kicks.
“It’s one of those crazy games against such a strong team and we knew what we had to do,” Darien head coach Leigh Parsons said. “We had to come ready to outwork them, be organized and play our game, and I think we did that down to a T.”
The seventh-seeded Blue Wave, which lost to No. 2 Warde 1-0 in the regular season, advance to the FCIAC semifinals on Monday where they will face No. 3 Ridgefield.
The victory for Darien took nearly three hours and included a dramatic storyline, as starting senior keeper Kate Fiore left the game in the second half with an injury, but as Parsons put it, the key was sticking together.
Backup goalie, and Kate’s younger sister, sophomore Christine Fiore, was thrust into the spotlight with a scoreless game underway and a spot in the semifinals up for grabs.
“I was so nervous, it was unbelievable,” Christine Fiore said with a laugh. “I did it for my sister.”
Behind a strong team defense, the Blue Wave was able to keep the Mustangs off the board the entire game and two 10 minute overtime periods to send the game to penalty kicks.
“We just buckled down and did the job,” Parsons said.
Penalty kicks went back and forth as both Fiore and Warde’s Mollie Kerrigan stepped up when needed.
Down 8-6 in PKs, Darien was able to mount a comeback, with two goals and a save in between from Fiore. Tied at eight, Fiore made a diving save to her right to prevent Warde from going up one. Darien senior Daphne Budd followed that up with a perfectly placed shot to the far right upper corner just out of Kerrigan’s reach to give her team the 9-8 advantage.
“She’s one of the best goalies in the state,” Parsons said of Kerrigan. “We never gave up. We worked on penalties the last week or so, it paid off. Penalties aren’t easy. With the pressure, nerves, tired legs, we handled it brilliantly.”
Warde’s final attempt to tie it up hit the lower left bar and ended with a Darien celebration.
“My heart is still racing,” Christine Fiore said.
For Warde, the defending FCIAC c0-champs, will now have to gear up for another Class LL state tournament run. Last fall the Mustangs advanced to the state final.
“We’re fortunate this doesn’t end our season,” Warde head coach Tom Cunningham said. “We got to the FCIAC finals last year, we got the FCIAC co-championship last year, we got to the state finials last year and that’s the one we want to go for.”
Fiore, who finished with five saves on PKs, said that her mom left the game with her sister, so nobody was there to watch the ending.
“It’s OK, it’s on videotape somewhere,” she said with a smile.