Greenwich field hockey falls to FCIAC foe Norwalk in class L opener

Greenwich High School' Sophia Portera chases down the ball during Monday night's CIAC class L opening round game against Norwalk High. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High School’ Sophia Portera chases down the ball during Monday night’s CIAC class L opening round game against Norwalk High. — Avery Belicka photo

In a thriller at Cardinal Stadium Monday afternoon, the Greenwich High School field hockey team scored the game-tying goal with 11:15 to play in regulation. However it was Norwalk High School that got the last laugh, as the Bears scored with 54.3 seconds to play to upend the Cards 3-2.

“Norwalk is a great team and has a great coach,” Greenwich High School Allyn Orrico said. “They are very fast and super aggressive to the ball. We knew we were going to have our best game to play with them. Our girls really played their hearts out, but Norwalk beat us to the ball. You have to give credit to them. They kept coming with their defense and we couldn’t convert on some of those opportunities. They seemed to beat us to the ball.”

With only 54.3 seconds to play in the first overtime session, Norwalk was awarded the corner opportunity. Alex Whalen started the play and pushed the ball toward the top of the circle. After a Norwalk player got a stick on the ball to move it close to the net, Samantha Bartush gained control of the ball and redirected it in the back of the net for the 3-2 victory.

“It’s fun for us,” Norwalk High School head coach Kyle Seaburg said. “We set a goal at the beginning of the season to be playing when it’s cold. Today wasn’t as cold as it was yesterday at practice, but just the idea of them realizing that and believing in themselves is great. Every day is just icing on the cake. We get to practice tomorrow and that’s fun. They work hard every day and bust their butts. I’m just really happy for them.”

Although Norwalk came away with the victory, it was the Lady Cardinals that struck first. With 6:15 to play in the opening half, Greenwich was on the attack and was pushing the ball towards the NHS net.

In a mad scrum in front of the Norwalk goalie, Greenwich’s Rebecca Litt got a stick on the ball and pushed it just over the goal line for the 1-0 lead.

While the Bears were trailing to start the second, they didn’t waste that much time scoring the equalizer. With Less than five minutes gone by in the half, Norwalk was awarded the corner opportunity.

Sarah Cicchetti attempted to clear the ball out of harm’s way for Greenwich, but Marissa Mastrianni kept the ball in the circle and unloaded a shot that found the back of the net with 25:08 to play.

The Bears kept the pressure coming and with just under 14 minutes to play picked up another corner opportunity. Whalen inserted the ball for Norwalk and passed to Bartush, who took the initial shot.

Once again, Mastrianni was there in front of the net for the deflection past GHS goalie Leah Hotaling to give Norwalk the 2-1 lead with 13:59 to play.

For Norwalk, scoring on the corner opportunities was a theme in the game, as that was the way all three goals were scored.

“We practice them and kind of had an idea of defensively what they would do,” Seaburg said. “Their goalie is great and very aggressive, so we knew we wanted to try and get the ball. We wanted to execute and get the ball on the net. We had a lot of shots wide of the net, but we wanted to get it on net and try and mix it up.”

Orrico said that throughout the season the Lady Cardinals have been working all the time on improving their defense when it comes to corners.

“That’s been our Achilles heel all season,” Orrico said. “We worked really hard at it, but it’s been tough all season. Hopefully we will learn from it this season and use it as motivation next year.”

This time around it was Greenwich’s turn to score the game-tying goal. With 11:15 to play, Paige Mautner gained control of the ball in front of the GHS sideline and darted down the field.

Just as she was about to get knocked to the ground, Mautner connected on the picture-perfect pass to teammate Sarah Stinebaugh, who immediately drilled the ball in the right corner of the net for the 2-2 tie.

Big Red had two more chances and taking the lead late. With 5:30, Greenwich was awarded the corner and Stinebaugh passed to Mautner, but the Cards turned the ball over.

With 6:25 left in overtime, Stinebaugh was charging to the net, but was unable to connect on the shot.

Norwalk finished with seven shots on net, while Greenwich had six. Hotaling finished with four saves for Big Red. The main difference was the corners, as Norwalk was able to get a bunch more opportunities than Greenwich.

“There weren’t any surprises,” Seaburg said. “We knew what they were going to do and they knew what we were going to do. They are a great team. I’m just excited for my girls. My assistant and I talked to the girls all year about believing in themselves. We believed in them and it actually took them half the season, it was actually a loss to Staples, where they said that we can play with everybody in our league.”

For Greenwich, they finished its season with a 7-6-4 record overall. One of the strengths of the Cards throughout the season was its field play and ball control.

“We did a very good job moving the ball throughout the season and got better and better as we went along,” Orrico said. “Our stick skills was definitely one of strong points this season.”

In addition, another strength for Greenwich was from its senior captains, as Cicchetti, Anne Dunster, Stinebaugh and Maddy Graves were stellar from start to finish.

“I am very proud of them,” Orrico said. “Our captains played an amazing game. Sarah, Anne, Sarah and Maddy have been tremendous captains all season long and really stepped up and helped us have a nice run at the end of the season. Leah did a great job in goal throughout the season as well.

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