Darien entered Saturday’s game against FCIAC West Region girls soccer rival Greenwich undefeated through its first seven games, while allowing only three goals in the process.
Two of those goals were scored by Greenwich when the team’s first met on Oct. 13, so the Blue Wave knew they had to be at their best on Saturday to keep their perfect record intact.
A goal apiece from Chloe Humphrey and Francesca Highton and another stellar game in goal by Jillian Fox helped Darien continue its unbeaten season.
Humphrey scored in the first half, Highton tallied in the second and Fox registered another shutout for Darien in its 2-0 win over Greenwich at Cardinal Stadium.
The Blue Wave raised their record to 8-0 heading into Tuesday’s 2 p.m. game against visiting New Canaan.
“As we settled into it, it was a lot better,” Darien coach Leigh Parsons said. “We took our chances against a much-improved Greenwich team. They are a very strong team, they play very well, they are good on the ball and they make it hard for you.”
Darien, which has registered shutouts in six of its eight games, edged Greenwich, 3-2, in the first meeting between the two squads.
“I think the performance today was really good,” Fox said. “Our backline was organized, we do a lot of communicating and keep the ball out of the net. Up front, we have a lot of power and scored two great goals today.”
The Cardinals’ record is 4-3-1 going into the regular season finale Thursday at New Canaan. The postseason starts in less than two weeks.
“We came out, started really early and settled and dictated the game in terms of possession and we started to create chances, but couldn’t quite take them,” Greenwich coach Simon Rumbold said. “I was happy with the first half. We conceded a goal from a corner, but that happens.”
Humphrey’s go-ahead goal came in the 18th minute off a corner kick.
“Colette Quinn made a perfect pass over and I realized no one was on me, so I took the opportunity to go back post,” said Humphrey, a sophomore. “I had a lot of time on the ball, so I placed my shot in the back of the cage.”
Humphrey was impressed with the team’s overall offensive execution.
“We’ve been doing a lot of ball movement in practice and working on getting the ball to each other’s feet,” Humphrey said. “We really did well off ball movement.”
Cardinals sophomore goalie Isabella Gega made eight saves, four of which came in the first half, as Humphrey, Joclynn Tyler and Quinn helped apply pressure.
Greenwich nearly tied the score in the opening half, but sophomore midfielder Ali Pennella’s free kick from approximately 40 yards out, hit the crossbar with 3:05 remaining in the first half. Fox made a diving stop on a well-place direct kick by Pennella in the 27th minute.
Seniors Sophia Bastek and Bea Owens helped pace the Cardinals.
“This was our first big test with our new formation,” Owens said. “We got a lot of people on the ball, we just need to figure out our final third and how we are going to get our quality up going into New Canaan.”
Owens noted the Cardinals shifted from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2, utilizing more midfielders.
Said Bastek: “We need to finish more shots and finalize in the final third. We just need to work on getting higher up, so we can have more support when we’re trying to take shots and follow up.”
Darien took a 2-0 advantage when Highton tallied with 13:49 left in the second half.
“It was a great pass over the backline by (Jacqueline) Callahan, it was a perfectly floated ball and got a touch on it and got around the keeper,” Highton said.
Senior Kristen Berzolla and junior Skyler Svavo helped lead Greenwich defensively, while seniors Nellie Kniffin and Courtney Ball paced Darien. The FCIAC West Region tournament looms for both teams.
“We are confident in how we can do in the postseason,” Bastek said. “We have shown improvement each week.”
Said Highton: “The way the season is going, we have high hopes for the postseason.”