GREENWICH — Molly Mitchell and Marlee Smith were quite a combination Monday for New Canaan, which has been quite a field hockey team five games into the season.
The Rams have yielded just two goals during that span, while scoring 23 and yes, they are undefeated.
The duo of Mitchell and Smith accounted for all of New Canaan’s goals in its 4-2 victory over Greenwich in a key early-season FCIAC matchup between a pair of unbeaten squads at Cardinal Stadium.
New Canaan, which shut out its first four opponents, ran its record to a perfect 5-0 for first-year coach Mary Clare Snediker.
“We knew Greenwich was a really tough opponent,” said Snediker, a New Canaan native, who played field hockey at Greenwich Academy. “They are aggressive and their big ball can be dangerous in penetrating our defense. But once we started working our passing combinations and jelling as a team, we started to create good offense.”
Mitchell and Smith helped the Rams create their opportunities, offensively.
“It’s so much fun being a part of this team,” said Mitchell, a sophomore. “Our new coach is a huge asset to this team and being a part of this is fun. All of us are sticking together and working with each other, which is helping us.”
The Cardinals (3-1) received one goal apiece from sophomore midfielder Zita Cohen and junior forward Augustina Ferrario. They entered halftime in a 1-1 tie with the Rams.
“We definitely started off really well and set the tone for the pace of the game,” GHS senior defender/midfielder/co-captain Ashley Zolin said. “We got a lot done and accomplished our goals for this game, especially the first half. The second half was not as strong.”
With the score knotted at 1-1, Mitchell registered the go-ahead tally off a scramble in front of the cage, converting a shot with 23:30 remaining in the second half.
“I saw the ball right there in the circle, got my stick on on it and fortunately, hit it in,” Mitchell said. “We knew this was going to be a tough game and we worked hard to prepare for it during practice.”
The visitors extended their advantage at the 17:40 mark of the second half, with Smith tallying off a Mitchell assist, making it 3-1. Applying relentless pressure, the Rams posted their fourth and final goal with 9:54 left to play, courtesy of Smith.
“I loved the start that we had in the first half, then after fell into playing Greenwich’s type of game, we started the second half strong,” Snediker said.
The Cardinals closed to within 4-2 when Ferrario scored on an assist from senior co-captain Katie Piotrzkowski with 4:39 remaining in the second half.
“It’s good that we came back a little bit and didn’t let the score stay at 4-1,” Piotrzkowski said. “Play all 60 minutes is one of the things we learned from this game. If you lose your focus and make one mistake, a good team like New Canaan will capitalize on it.”
Mitchell put the Rams on top, 1-0, 2:25 into the game, driving a reverse shot past GHS junior goalie Matea Sucic. The Cardinals gained momentum as the opening half progressed and evened the score when Cohen lifted her shot off a penalty corner into the cage with 12:43 left in the first half.
Sucic made six saves in goal and sophomore Bryn McConnell stopped two shots for Greenwich (3-1). Junior goalie Megan Lydon had three saves for the Rams, who were led in the midfield and on defense by senior captain Emily Knight and sparked throughout by freshman Shawna Ferraro, sophomore Rachel Gilio and sophomore Keira Cooney.
“I think we did a really good job of playing as a team, looking for the open player and not being selfish with the ball,” Knight said. “We did a good job of keeping our energy up, which gave us the edge over them. This was one of our toughest games at the beginning of our schedule, so our adrenaline was going.”
“One of our biggest strengths this season is depth,” Snediker said. “On any given day, you don’t know who is going to step up and score goals for us.”
Said GHS first-year coach Megan Wax: “This was enlightening for our team. It was awesome to see how our team responded, after New Canaan scored 2:30 into the game. They did everything we worked on. Our girls came out with a little different energy in the first half, so in our talk after the game, we discussed being a 60-minute team.”
Greenwich hosts Westhill Wednesday and Trumbull Friday, before visiting Rye (N.Y.) on Saturday. New Canaan visits St. Joseph on Wednesday and hosts Wilton Friday.
“We are all really fired up for Westhill on Wednesday,” Zolin said. “This lit a fired under all of us.”