NORWALK — Kyle Kirby wasn’t sharing any secrets after the Staples Wreckers’ latest showdown with the Darien Blue Wave field hockey team.
While Kirby may have wanted to keep things quiet, her penalty stroke goal in overtime was certainly the Wreckers’ loudest of the season.
Kirby put her shot high inside the left post 1:20 into overtime, as Staples punched its ticket to the state final with a 2-1 victory over Darien in the CIAC Class L semifinals Tuesday at Brien McMahon’s Jack Casagrande Field.
Being in the overtime spotlight added to the drama of the penalty stroke.
“There’s definitely more tension in overtime, especially since it’s sudden death,” Kirby said. “You make it and you go home as a winner, and if you don’t you have to keep playing. We’ve had our fair share of those in FCIACs and states, so it was nice to have our chance for a stroke.”
— GameTimeCT (@GameTimeCT) November 14, 2018
No. 2 Staples (21-1-0-0) will now face No. 1 Cheshire (19-0-0-0) in the final in Wethersfield on Saturday at a time to be determined. Cheshire edged Newtown 3-2 in Tuesday’s other semifinal game.
For No. 6 Darien (18-3-1-0), the loss ended an undefeated run of 17 games, as the Wave had been 16-0-1-0 since a 2-2 start.
“It’s tough,” Darien head coach Mo Minicus said. “It’s sports. We had the ball down here and then they had a really quick transition and moved the ball and caught us defensively. It’s tough to end on a stroke.”
Staples head coach Ian Tapsall said the two rivals bring out the best in each other. In their last eight meetings, six have been decided by one goal and the other two were ties.
“We play better against Darien and I think Darien plays better against us because we have a lot more respect for each other,” Tapsall said. “Everybody on both teams is college level. There’s a little more sophisticated play which is the the college-like play we try to coach. These girls are good at doing with it and when we play against each other, you see the best of what these girls have to offer.”
The Wreckers had the clear advantage during the first 15 minutes, cashing in when Kyle Kirby scored at the 7:21 mark. The goal came during the second of two consecutive penalty corners, after Darien’s Katie Elders batted away a high initial attempt. Kirby got to the ball in the ensuing scrum and scored.
The Wave then tied it with a beautiful transition goal in the second half.
Darien beat the defense down the field and Molly Hellman set up Elders for the equalizer in the center of the circle with 17:31 remaining.
“That was gorgeous,” Minicus said. “We moved more offensively since we were losing and it worked. We just couldn’t put another one in.”
The Wave kept up the pressure throughout the second half, but Staples’ defense, led by goalie Bridget Mulloy (4 saves) and backs Grace Cooper, Hannah Paprotna and Maisie Dembski, held off the attack
After an initial push by the Wave in overtime, the Wreckers turned the tide and earned a stroke when a Darien player blocked the ball just before it crossed the goal line.
“Kyle is always the one to take it.,” Tapsall said of the stroke. “We actually did practices yesterday and she missed two. So we went out and practiced again and she started nailing them. Normally she doesn’t miss and I know she’s going to put it in exactly the same place every time and she’ll score.”
Tapsall’s shot was true, beating goalie Catherine Vogt (8 saves) to the left, as Staples started its celebration.
“We definitely played our hearts out, made sure to get the ball in the circle and kept pounding and pounding,” Kirby said. “That’s definitely a big part of our style of play. We keep going until we can’t anymore.”
With her team’s season now in the books, Minicus had a clear message for her players, one that could have applied to the Wreckers had the result been reversed.
“It’s a hard thing,” Minicus said. “Unless you win everything, you’re always ending your season with a loss. Don’t let that define your season.”
STAPLES 2, DARIEN 1 (OT)
DARIEN 0 1 0 — 1
STAPLES 1 0 1 — 2
Scoring: Darien: Katie Elders 1g; Molly Hellman 1a. Staples: Kyle Kirby 2g. Goalies: D – Catherine Vogt 8 saves; S – Bridget Mulloy 4 saves