NORWALK — Interviewing a teary-eyed coach following a state playoff game is no rare occurrence in high school sports.
That coach being on the winning side however, isn’t something seen every day.
According to New Canaan coach Kristin Woods, it’s the first time she’s welled up following a win, but after defeating top-ranked Darien 12-11 Tuesday night at Brien McMahon, she was just too overcome with emotion to hold back.
“I’m fantastic, how else could I be right now?” Woods laughed. “I’ve actually never teared up after a game but this was a game to tear up after. We’ve been here quite a few times in the last few years and this place has always had it out for us, but tonight we overcame that.”
The No. 5 Rams will face No. 6 Ridgefield—which beat No. 2 Cheshire 14-13 in overtime Tuesday—in the finals Saturday, looking to win their first title in Class L since moving up last season. New Canaan defeated Ridgefield 7-6 in the regular season.
“I will get them there,” Woods said of her girls being mentally ready after ending Darien’s 107-game in-state winning streak. “Ridgefield is out to get us. It’s their season too and they’re playing their last game, so it’s going to be a battle.”
The Rams were ready for battle in the first half Tuesday, jumping out to a 7-3 lead at the half behind four goals from Braeden Dial.
After Karlie Bucci made it 8-3 less than a minute into the second, Darien found its groove, scoring three straight goals to make it 8-6 and prompt a New Canaan timeout.
“It’s just being composed the whole time,” Bucci said. “We’ve been here in the past, I’ve had experience in tough games like these, so just being composed and focusing and not letting it get to your head when they go on a run like that.”
New Canaan left the timeout and went on a 3-1 run behind goals from Lauren Bisceglia, Campbell Connors and Bucci.
Darien wasn’t done however, tallying four-straight goals. The final of which came on a pass from Emma Jacques that awkwardly tipped the stick of Nicole Humphrey and bounced into the net, tying the game at 11 with just 3:52 to play.
Less than a minute later the Rams went back on top for good as freshman McKenna Harden powered to the net with the game-winner.
With 2:43 left, Darien got a break following a New Canaan yellow card, setting it up with possession and a chance to tie.
Despite creating several opportunities, the Blue Wave couldn’t find the back of the net.
“I was so nervous,” said Rams goalie Caroline O’Dea, who faced 28 shots and made nine saves in the contest. “(During an injury timeout) we were just saying this is our game. I’m a junior and this is the first time I’ve ever beaten Darien, even in middle school. We’ve really worked hard in practice to have this game.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Bucci, New Canaan. The senior showed off her talent and experience in the second half, scoring twice and notching an assist to help put the Rams over the top.
“The only thing I’ve said these last two games is play a full 50 minutes,” Bucci said. “If we do that, then we can get the win. Just play with intensity the whole time and leave it all on the field.”
NOT SO FAST
One of the keys to the Rams’ first half success was eliminating the fast-break of Darien, something they focused on while preparing for the Wave attack.
“In practice every day we’ve been working on that, so every time they came down with the ball we stopped them,” O’Dea said. “I think that was the main reason we lost the first game and we really shut that down today.”
NOT GOING ANYWHERE
The Wave may have lost their triple-digit in-state win streak, but Darien isn’t just going to fall back to the back next season, graduating just seven players and returning plenty of girls with championship experience.
Coach Lisa Lindley was unavailable for comment after the game.
NO. 5 NEW CANAAN 12, NO. 1 DARIEN 11
NEW CANAAN 7 5—12
DARIEN 3 8—11
Scoring: D—Nicole Humphrey 3 goals, Emma Jacques 1g 1 assist, Christine Fiore 2g, Katie Elders 1g 1a, Nicole Humphrey 2g, Kendall Wisinski 2g 1a; NC—Campbell Connors 2g 1a, Jane Charlton 2g, Braeden Dial 4g 1a, Karlie Bucci 2g 1a, Lauren Bisceglia 1g, McKenna Harden 1g. Goalies: D—Maggie Brooks (3 saves); NC—Caroline O’Dea (9). Shots: D—28; NC—15.