Falling behind early isn’t the best way to kick off the state tournament. For the Darien girls soccer team, it only fueled the fire.
The Blue Wave scored the game’s final two goals, the second coming off the foot of senior Kaitlyn Popson with 2:47 to play in overtime, as 14th-seeded Darien overcame No. 19 Hall, 2-1, in the opening round of the CIAC Class LL playoffs Monday at DHS.
The Wave, who trailed 1-0 after the first 40 minutes, pulled together at halftime.
“We went into the huddle and said if we don’t band together as a team and really fight, then there’s no way that we could win,” Darien senior goalkeeper Olivia Maniscalco said. “We went into the second half with the mentality that we had to give it everything we had or else our season would be over.”
“The best thing for me was seeing the way they responded to going down, and how they fought back and didn’t quit,” Darien coach Leigh Parsons said. “It was great to see them throw everything at them, leave it on the field, and score the winner (late) in overtime.”
Darien (11-6-1) will take to the road for its second round game against No. 3 Glastonbury (14-1-1) at 2 p.m., Thursday. Glastonbury had a first-round bye.
While the Wave moves on, Hall (8-7-2) heads home after a year of growth. The Warriors’ lineup against Darien featured just two seniors — co-captains Emily Cubbage and Jessica Mason — and two juniors.
“We’re a young team and I felt we were thrown off of our game a little bit,” Hall coach Scott Ferguson said. “We only have two seniors, both great leaders, and we’re a really young team. This was the first tournament game for a lot of kids, so we kind of expected some of this, and there were some positives there too.”
The Warriors put Darien in a quick hole, as sophomore Nicky Deslauriers scored with an assist from Catherine Mancini, also a sophomore, in the sixth minute. Deslauriers took the attempt about 15 yards from the net and the ball deflected off a defender and past Maniscalco for the goal.
“We didn’t close down quick enough in the box, there was a deflection and it spun around the keeper,” Parsons said. “It was unlucky but those things happen. At that point they were strong, but we didn’t really deserve to be 1-nil down. For five t 10 minutes after that we were kind of shaky, but in the second half, we were able to match their intensity.”
Darien managed to keep the ball in the Warriors’ third for much of the second half, and freshman Colette Quinn tied the game with a free kick from the right corner in the 60th minute. Quinn placed her kick perfectly over the head of Hall’s freshman goalie Hana Roggendorf (8 saves) to make it 1-1.
“That was crazy,” Maniscalco said. “Colette is amazing and she has such a good shot. We’re so happy for her and for the team with that goal. That was so good.”
On the defensive end, Maniscalco was steady with 12 saves and helped fend off several Hall corner kicks with strong play from the backline of Nelle Kniffin, Eleanor Mellin, Katharine Chandler and Courtney Ball.
“We’ve been fortunate to have two keepers who have played a lot of minutes and really contributed and Olivia did really well today,” Parsons said. “When she was called upon she did the things she had to do. There were no blistering shots to the upper corners, but she dealt with everything she needed to deal with.”
The score remained 1-1 through the final 20 minutes of regulation and the first 17 minutes of overtime before the Wave scored the game-winner.
Hall attempted to clear the ball but a header sent it back towards the Warriors’ net. Popson split two defenders on the right and rolled a shot inside the far post.
The goal meant Darien avoided a PK round.
“Penalty kicks are a toss-up,” Parsons said. “We’ve worked on them a lot in the last couple of weeks and you try to emulate scenarios, but anyone who’s ever taken a penalty kick in a real game knows that goal becomes very small once you’re on that spot. We’re very confident in penalty kicks, but it was nice to avoid them.”
For the Warriors, the game was a stepping stone for a young team.
“We didn’t play the way we wanted to play,” Ferguson said. “I really thought that Darien wanted it more than we did. They competed more and they deserved to win. We have no complaints, I just wish we had put our best foot forward.”
Olivia Maniscalco, Darien. The senior keeper delivered a steady performance, collecting 12 saves and shutting down the Warriors for the final 94 minutes.
“This postseason is so fun because I know that we have the potential to go far in this tournament. This past week, we’ve been building up to this game and motivating ourselves to be ready to win. As seniors, we want to win and we want to go as far as we can.” — Darien goalie Olivia Maniscalco