The New Canaan Rams celebrate one of their five goals during a 5-0 win over rival Darien in the FCIAC girls soccer semifinals Monday night in Wilton. — Dave Stewart photo
Given how close their first clash was, the New Canaan Rams and Darien Blue Wave were prepared for another hard-fought game when they met in the FCIAC girls soccer semifinals on Monday night.
Instead, the Rams turned the contest into a tour de force.
Katherine Lisecky’s bounding ball, shot from midfield, found its way into the net in the 19th minute, igniting the New Canaan offense en route to a surprising 5-0 victory over rival Darien at Wilton’s Lilly Field.
While the Rams felt confident in a win, the margin of the result was a shocker.
“I don’t think we really expected to beat them by five,” said sophomore Emma Schuh, who scored twice. “Beating them earlier in the season, it was 1-0, and that was a really big win. But it’s semifinals in the FCIACs, it’s 5-0, and we’ve improved a lot. It’s just a really good feeling.”
The fourth-seeded Rams (13-4-1) will try and continue those good feelings on Thursday when they face the No. 3 Ridgefield Tigers (15-2-1) in the FCIAC final at 7 p.m. at Fairfield-Warde High School.
New Canaan is making its first appearance in the conference final since 2009, when they played to a scoreless tie with Ridgefield and the two teams were declared co-champs.
“We knew this group had tremendous potential and over the last couple of weeks, they’ve played brilliantly,” New Canaan head coach Rich Hickson said. “This was just another game where they performed to the high standard they’ve set for themselves.”
For eighth-seeded Darien (10-6-2), which defeated No. 1 Staples 2-0 in overtime in the quarterfinals, the loss to New Canaan was as tough as they come.
“It’s frustrating because I know there’s another level to my team and they can play better,” Wave head coach Leigh Parsons said. “They’ve had a good run, it’s a tough league and to make it to the last four is a credit — it wasn’t luck. The hard part for everyone is they know we didn’t show our best today.”
New Canaan got the ball bouncing in the right direction — literally — when Lisecky sent a long kick at the Darien goal from midfield. The ball bounced off the slick turf in front of Wave goalie Olivia Maniscalco and went over the keeper’s head and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
“She struck the ball extremely well,” Hickson said of Lisecky. “We knew coming in that it was a slick surface and it was going to bounce. It was great for us because that first goal relieved a little bit of pressure and that allowed to push on from there.”
“That was good because it set us off a step ahead right from the beginning,” Schuh said. “We also knew to test the goalie because it was definitely very slippery. A lot of our goals were sort of based off that — second bounces — and we were just able to get them in.”
In the 29th minute, Schuh doubled the Rams’ advantage when she fired a shot inside the right post with an assist from Olivia Bognon.
Freshman Kaleigh Harden then made it 3-0 with a goal off a rebound 2:17 before halftime.
In the 60th minute, Schuh netted her second goal of the game, and third of the tournament, with an assist from senior co-captain Kendall Patten.
The final goal came off a boot from freshman Dillyn Patten, with Bognon picking up her second assist.
“Every game we’ve played, we’ve come out and tried to be aggressive, play the front foot,” Hickson said. “Some games it works for you and some games, you have to be a little more patient. We managed to take the chances that we created, and managed to get the result that we wanted, but we didn’t think it was going to be like that.”
Parsons said the message for his Blue Wave players was to hold their heads high.
“Be proud of what you’ve done, but tonight just wasn’t your night,” he said. “You’ve got to give New Canaan credit. They came out, they worked hard, they were organized, they won a lot of tackles and 50-50 balls, and they finished their chances. They had a complete game like we did a game ago (against Staples).”
As for the Rams, they have one more challenge to overcome when they play Ridgefield for the championship on Thursday.
“We beat them earlier in the season (1-0) and I definitely think we can do it again, but it’s going to be a tough game,” Schuh said. “Going into FCIACs was one of our big goals since none of us have ever gone there for soccer. Getting to the championship game is a very big accomplishment.”
FCIAC Girls Soccer Semifinals – New Canaan 5, Darien 0
Monday, Oct. 29, at Kristine Lilly Field, Wilton
Darien 0-0 0
New Canaan 3-2 5
New Canaan: Emma Schuh 2g; Olivia Bognon 2a; Katherine Lisecky 1g; Kaleigh Harden 1g; Dillyn Patten 1g; Kendall Patten 1a
D – Olivia Maniscalco 7 saves
NC – Jordan Paterson 6 saves
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