Controlling possession the majority of today’s field hockey game against Greenwich enabled Wilton to draw numerous penalty corners throughout the FCIAC matchup at sun-soaked Cardinal Stadium.
And those two important aspects added up to an impressive early season win for the Warriors.
Scoring five goals off penalty corners, Wilton posted a 5-1 victory over Greenwich, behind a three-goal first half. The game was the home-opener for the Cardinals (1-1), who began their season with a 5-0 victory against Norwalk this past Thursday.
Wilton, which advanced to the CIAC Class L Tournament finals in 2021 and has an experienced team this fall, led 2-0 following the first period and 3-0 at halftime.
“The first half, especially we were primarily on defense,” Cardinals coach Megan Wax said. “Wilton is super intense and fast paced and they play very much in rhythm, so it took us quite a bit to match their tempo – probably the first half.”
Greenwich received a fourth quarter goal from sophomore Stella Thibeault and nine saves from junior goalie Kelly Janssen.
“Wilton has a very talented team with a lot of talented players,” said Janssen, who is beginning her second season as the Cardinals’ starting goalie. “We really fought hard. They have a lot of speed and intensity and game IQ.”
“We unfortunately couldn’t meet up to their level today,” Janssen continued. “I would love to have a match with them later in the season and see how much we improve and they improve. We were able to learn a lot from them on the field.”
The Warriors (2-0) scored the game’s first goal with 7:57 remaining in the opening quarter off a penalty corner. Senior Nola Ryder crossed the ball to senior Samira Ayoub, who then moved it to junior Riley Fitzgerald. Positioned in front of the cage at the right side, Fitzgerald knocked a shot from close in past Janssen, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
At the 4:08 mark of the first quarter another penalty corner resulted another Wilton goal. This time, senior Hannah Fitzgerald finished in front of the goal, getting her stick on the ball off a scramble, making it 2-0.
“When they got their two goals, in the first quarter, it was us trying to figure out the speed at which they were trying to play,” Wax said. “We need to move even faster than that to defend it.”
Wilton coach Leon Kerr noted that practice makes perfect when it comes to executing penalty corners.
“We practice those a lot, we are finally starting to perfect them,” said Kerr, whose squad began the season with a 7-0 win against St. Joseph. “A good insert, good stop, correct shots on goal lead to goals.”
The Warriors were quick to the ball throughout with senior Charlotte Casiraghi, senior Elizabeth Kendra and Darien Lilly (senior) pacing the way.
“We practice be first to the ball,” Kerr said. “Once you are first to the ball it gives you all the opportunities to put pressure on the team. We’ve been practicing that all week.”
Greenwich kept it a 2-0 game behind several saves from Janssen in goal and stellar defensive work from several players, including senior tri-captain Maddie Hoekman.
Casigrahi scored Wilton’s third goal with 12:30 left in the third stanza off a penalty corner, then Hannah Fitzgerald tallied for the second time at the 11:06 mark of the third quarter. Sophomore Mary Sylvester closed out the scoring for the Warriors with a penalty corner goal with 7:24 go to in the third period.
“I think our third quarter was especially strong and the second quarter we really played our hearts out,” Janssen said. “I’m not worried, I think as a team we’re going to grow so much from this experience and I really would love to see them again another time this season.”
The Cards’ goal occurred with 12:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. Junior Libby Nola impressively moved the ball down the left sideline and sent a crossing pass to Thibeault, who finished the 2-on-1 transition play by depositing the ball inside the right post.
“It was a really nice goal, it was a good job of pushing the ball up field,” Wax said. “Libby did a great job of maintaining possession and Stella filled the lane well, which is one of the things we’ve been working on.”
Greenwich, which had a more senior-laden team a season ago, defeated Wilton, 2-0, in 2021.
“There’s a lot of learning, there’s a big learning curve for the younger girls, but I think they’re starting t realize how much mental effort playing at the varsity level also takes,” Wax said of her young squad. “We’ll get there, we’ll learn. I’d rather this now than November.”
Greenwich is in action again Saturday at noon against host Ridgefield.
“It’s a very important game for us,” Janssen noted. “We had a tough game against them last year, but we really want to come out and play our hearts out and show how much potential we have as a team.”