O'Connell's goal lifts New Canaan girls soccer to FCIAC-West title over rival Darien

DARIEN — New Canaan senior girls soccer player Courtney O’Connell was as surprised as anyone when her corner kick early in the second half wound up in the back of the net.

O’Connell’s kick came hooking in from the left corner and an attempt to punch it over the top of the goal by Darien’s keeper ended with her accidentally punching it into the top of the net.

That was the deciding goal as New Canaan won the FCIAC-West Region 2-1 over previously unbeaten Darien.

Darien had beaten New Canaan three times in the regular season, making the win for the Rams even sweeter against their arch-rivals.

“Oh my gosh, it feels amazing. It feels even better because we’ve had a lot of obstacles and challenges throughout the season,” O’Connell said. “We lost to them three times in the regular season, but it didn’t matter, because in the end, we came out on top and won the championship. We came through so much adversity.”

New Canaan was playing without three starters and head coach Rich Hickson, who all had to miss the game because of COVID-19 contact tracing.

“This group has faced so much adversity, as have all the FCIAC teams. This has obviously been a very different year,” New Canaan assistant coach Shannon Colligan said. “This group has come together so well. We had three players and a head coach quarantined because of contact tracing but this team played even harder for them. Losing to Darien three times is not easy but we knew if we got to see them one more time that today would be our day.”

Darien scored first when University of Rhode Island bound senior Francesca Highton converted a penalty kick with 17:15 left in the first half.

Darien was awarded the penalty kick after a player was fouled while a long ball was being played into the box.

New Canaan netted the equalizer with a little help from the wet turf.

A direct kick by Kennedy Kreutzer from 30 yards out bounced in front of the Darien keeper, but skipped past her on the wet turf, tying the game.

Then, five minutes into the second half, O’Connell’s corner was punched in on a ball that gets cleared over the bar 9-out-of-10 times.

“Anything can happen in one game especially when you are playing one team for the fourth time,” Darien coach leigh Parsons said. “I felt like we had plenty of opportunities in the beginning of the game to put them to bed and be in a more comfortable position. Then they score a goal that on a drier day, doesn’t happen. Then another kind of silly goal goes in and it’s tough to take. It’s hard to have such a good season and have it end this way.”

Darien would not penetrate the New Canaan defense over the final 30 minutes for any good scoring chances as the Rams defense and midfield was able to control play.


Courtney O’Connell, New Canaan: O’Connell not only scored the winning goal, but was in on the action all game, winning balls and helping her team maintain possession with the lead in the second half.


“(On the corner kick) I just gave it my all and I didn’t expect it to go it,” O’Connell said. “It was disbelief when I saw it go over the goal line. It was an amazing feeling.”

sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports



DARIEN 1 0 —1

Goals: D—Francesca Highton. NC— Kennedy Kreutzer; Courtney O’Connell. Goalies: D—Jillian Fox 4 saves; NC—Emma Gibbens 9 saves