Ridgefield field hockey team falls to Darien in FCIAC playoffs

The Darien High field hockey team has made the FCIAC championship game in seven of the past nine years. Obviously, the Blue Wave is comfortable in the playoff spotlight.

Darien kicked off its latest postseason adventure with a 2-0 victory over Ridgefield in the FCIAC quarterfinals Friday at DHS. First-half goals by seniors Daphne Cutler and Bridget Mahoney put the Wave in front, and they went on to outshoot the Tigers, 24-1, over 60 minutes.

The second-seeded Wave (14-2-1-0) will now square off against third-seed Greenwich (13-4-0-0) in the semifinals Monday at Brien McMahon High School.

Seventh-seed Ridgefield (9-4-4-0) will head back to the practice field and begin gearing up for the state tournament. The Tigers got a good performance from goalie Rosemary O’Keefe (eight saves) and the defense, who were under siege for most of the first half.

“We had a really good effort and we fought with them right to the end,” said Ridgefield first-year head coach Jessica Smith. “Definitely not our best game of the season; we’re battling a couple of injuries right now, but we played hard to the very end and that’s something I’m very proud of with this team: They never give up and they never let a team walk all over them.”

Darien had great play from its midfield, with Brinsley Rushe delivering a fantastic performance on the left side. Senior co-captain Katie Elders, Cutler, Molly Hellman, and Tala Garcia also had huge games, stemming every Tiger push upfield. Ridgefield managed just one shot on cage.

Darien had many chances in the first half, when it outshot Ridgefield, 17-0, and had an 11-0 advantage on corners.

“They’re physical, they’re aggressive, and they’re good, so we were ready for that today,” said Darien coach Mo Minicus about Ridgefield. “We did everything we needed to do in the first half. We had 11 corners, we scored two goals, and we did a great job with our press and keeping them out of our defensive end.”

“This is my first year as a head coach and my first FCIAC tournament, and it’s definitely a very high level of play,” said Smith. “Mo does a great job; they’re very skilled and well-coached, and I’m hoping to get our program to that same place.”

Ridgefield’s defense, which featured Maddie Peters, Bailey Harriott and Elizabeth O’Connor, among others, kept Darien scoreless for the first 13 minutes, before the Wave finally took the lead.

A wild scramble to the right of the cage ended with Cutler slipping the ball past O’Keefe and inside the right post at the 13:26 mark.

Mahoney then doubled the Darien advantage with 1:59 remaining in the first half, as she had an open look in the center of the circle and whipped a back-hand shot into the goal for a 2-0 lead.

Darien didn’t add to its lead in the second half but held the Tigers at bay for the win.

“Our team did a good job of passing and working together,” said Mahoney. “And definitely defensively, we stepped up on any of their possible fast-break opportunities.