Greenwich High field hockey blanks Stamford, awaits top-seeded Warriors

The Greenwich High School field hockey team has been on fire recently and it carried over in the first round of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournament.

More determined than ever, and with something to prove, the Lady Cardinals hosted Stamford High School in the opening round of the FCIAC tournament and came away with the commanding 3-0 victory Saturday afternoon.

“The girls were very selfless in their passes and they really made smart plays,” Greenwich High School head coach Ally Orrico said. “I’ve been trying to stress all season long is that you have to put in your talent with being smart. The girls have heart, they have skills, they have intensity and have all the things it takes to be a great player. I need them to make sure their decision-making is matching their skill level. Their shots and passes were very smart against Stamford, so I think we brought everything to this game.”

Greenwich, which scored once in the first half and two more in the second to ice the game, got goals from Sydney Cole, Meghan Collins and Emily Brash. When it came to assists, no one was better than Elizabeth Stillman, as she netted two on the day. Alli Larkin finished with one assist.

As a team, Big Red finished with 11 shots on net and GHS goalie Freddie Bancroft finished with 10 saves in the winning effort.

“I have to say that I was really pleased with everybody,” Orrico said. “We’ve had games this season where we have had great defense and they’ve picked up our attack. There were games where our midfield picked up the other two lines, there were games where our goalie picked up everybody and games where our forwards really carried us. I was so pleased with Stamford because this was our best game as a team on all facets of the game. It was the first game this season where I felt like everybody was on.”

While Bancroft was instrumental in keeping the Black Knights off the scoreboard in the FCIAC opener, the GHS defense, as well as Emily Brash’s ability to possess the ball, were solid as well.

“Freddie was so aggressive and made so many phenomenal saves.” Orrico said. “She was really on. Lizzy Trotta, Anne Dunster and Meghan Collins really had a spectacular game at defense. Emily Brash has been so key for us all season. Not only does she have great eliminations and great shots, but she’s able to really keep possession of the ball and that lets us sustain our attack. She did a great job possessing the ball against Stamford.”

One of the problems for the Black Knights was that they battled a Cardinals team that was playing with a chip on their shoulders Saturday. After missing out on competing in the FCIAC tournament last season, the girls on Big Red were motivated to make a statement this time around.

“I think we were very determined,” Orrico said. “Not qualifying last year was very tough on the girls. I think that was a little added inspiration and motivation for them. They were really fired up to put everything together and try to make a really good run in the FCIAC playoffs.”

With the victory against Stamford on Saturday, Greenwich advances to the FCIAC semifinal game. However, due to the storm that battered the tri-state area earlier this week, the date and time are still up in the air. As of press time, Greenwich will battle top-seeded Wilton High School Thursday night at 7 p.m., however both are tentative.

In fact, it’s highly possible that both Wilton and Greenwich high schools will be unable to even practice, due to severity of the late October storm.

“I feel like it’s an even playing field because both of us are most likely unable to practice,” Orrico said. “It would be great if we could practice, because you want to stay sharp with your skills. It’s such a finesse game as it is, so to have a layoff will affect both teams. I don’t think it will hurt either one of us because we are both in the same position.”

Greenwich’s next game against the Warriors in the FCIAC semis won’t be the first time these two schools have seen each other. Back on Oct. 10, the Lady Cardinals traveled up to Wilton and came away with the 3-0 defeat.

Although the score doesn’t look the prettiest, Orrico said that her team looked better than the score indicated.

“Although we lost 3-0, I thought we played them a lot stronger than the score showed,” Orrico said. “I feel like we need to get off to a better start. We played very strong in the second half, but we just couldn’t finish. We had a bunch of scoring chances. If we are disciplined and create opportunities for themselves, I think they’ll have a better chance to finish in this game. I hope they realize that we can play with them and it will give them confidence, even if we lost 3-0. If we step up and play for 60 minutes like we did in the second half of the first game, then I think we have a great chance.”

And the Cardinals have every reason to aim high. Since the team’s loss to Wilton, they have dominated the competition, beating Trumbull, Cheshire, Westhill and Danbury by a combined score of 15-4. Not bad for a team that has a plethora of young talent on the varsity roster.

“The girls have really stepped up their game and have started to put everything together,” Orrico said. “We have a very young team. We lost some key defensive players that graduated last year, so this year our three backs and sweeper are first-year varsity players. The midfield is pretty young as well. Our forwards have really stepped it up and have done a great job of finishing. They are getting better after every game. They’ve had to learn a lot in one season. It’s been great that they’ve learned so quickly. I am so pleased with them and I think they are ahead of their curve.”

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