NORWALK — Facing a daunting, two-goal second-half deficit against Greenwich in Monday’s FCIAC tournament semifinals certainly didn’t cause Wilton to panic or play tight. Instead, the Warriors’ championship pedigree surfaced.
Defending league champion Wilton showed how difficult it is to keep some title-winning teams down, staging a comeback it won’t soon forget.
Fifth-seeded Wilton forced overtime by finishing the second half with two unanswered goals, then tallied 48 seconds into overtime to defeat top-seeded Greenwich 3-2 in a dramatic field hockey matchup at Brien McMahon High School.
The Warriors (13-3) advanced to Thursday’s championship game, where they will play either Darien or Norwalk. Sophomore forward Olivia Hahn scored the game-winner in the 7-on-7 sudden death overtime session, scoring off a pass from senior forward Jessica Hendry.
“We have such a positive vibe on the team and I could tell we wanted it so bad,” Hahn said. “Each extra push we took to put the ball in the goal in overtime was totally worth it. Greenwich is such great competition and it’s always a great game against them.”
As exhilarating as the win was for Wilton, that’s how heartbreaking it was for Greenwich, which took a 2-0 lead on second-half goals from senior forward Maggie O’Gorman and junior forward Sam Chabot.
“They just executed, you have to tip your cap to Wilton,” GHS coach Ally Orrico said. “They won the 50/50 balls more than we did and executed a little more than we did. I’m proud of the fight our girls showed though.”
On the game-winning goal, Hendry received the ball in space, carried it up the field and sent a pass to Hahn, who quickly drove a shot past Cardinals senior goalie Emily Gunzburg inside the left post. The victors advanced to the FCIAC semifinals by edging Staples, 4-3, in double overtime in the quarterfinals.
“We had the momentum going into overtime and we kept it,” said Hendry, Wilton’s leading goal scorer. “We wanted to get it over with and finish it off, because we went to double overtime with Staples and it took its toll on us. We wanted to finish it off strong.”
Following a scoreless first half, Greenwich (14-3) tallied twice in spirited 44-second span to seize a 2-0 advantage. O’Gorman stickhandled the ball past a pair of defenders, found herself in a one-on-one situation with Wilton goalie Megan Kaeyer and converted her shot on the run from close in, making it 1-0 with 26:39 left in the second half.
At the 25:55 mark, Chabot lit the scoreboard for the Cardinals, putting the Warriors in a 2-0 hole.
“Maggie made a phenomenal move on her goal and Sam made a great move,” Orrico said. “They executed the plays perfectly and refused to be denied, that’s why they scored.”
Down by two goals, Wilton began applying more pressure on the Cardinals midway through the second half. The aggressive play of senior midfielder Sophia Kammerman and Hahn drew a penalty corner and the Warriors converted. Senior Maddie Pagliaro sent her insert pass to Hendry, who drove a shot inside the left post for her 26th goal of the season — a tally that trimmed Greenwich’s lead to 2-1 with 13:49 to go.
“That first goal helped us get the momentum,” Hendry said. “We are determined to get both FCIAC and state titles and we just pulled it together.”
Greenwich kept Wilton off the scoreboard on its next two possessions, with senior Beth Williamson and junior Abril Martinez-Arraya clearing the ball out of the circle. But the Warriors notched the equalizer, as Pagliaro tallied off a setup by Hendry with just 5:41 remaining in the second half.
“Greenwich is a really good team and we lost to Greenwich last time, so we knew we needed to bring it,” Hendry said. “They are very skilled with and show great passing, so we had to try to shoot whenever we were in the circle.”
EVEN FIRST HALF
Greenwich had the edge on possession the first part of the opening half, then Wilton kept it on the Cards’ end toward the midway point. The Warriors had the edge in penalty corners, but it remained scoreless at halftime.
“They had really good players who took strong hits, but we did a really good job of defending them,” Williamson said. “Our ability to stop hits in the circle is one of our strengths. This gives us experience in how to play in overtime for the state tournament.”
Gunzburg made six saves for GHS, and Kaeyer had six saves for the Warriors.
“The Staples game from the other day helped us with momentum,” Wilton co-coach Elizabeth Pisko said. “Staples was down by two on us and they scored on us within minutes, so we knew it could be done.”
Said Warriors co-coach Toniann Cortina: “This is our first time here as coaches, so the girls having this experience helped us out.”
WILTON 3, GREENWICH 2 (OT)
WILTON 0 2 1—3
GREENWICH 0 2 0— 2
Records: Greenwich 14-2; Wilton 13-3
Goals: G — Maggie O’Gorman, Samantha Chabot; W — Jessica Hendry, Maddy Pagliaro, Olivia Hahn; Goalies: W — Megan Kayer (6 saves); G — Emily Gunzburg (6 saves)