Greenwich field hockey team stuns Wilton in FCIAC semis, claim co-champions

Liz Stillman’s goal with 5:30 left in sudden death overtime gave the Greenwich field hockey team a 2-1 upset win over top-seeded Wilton in the FCIAC semifinals on Tuesday in New Canaan.

The fourth-seeded Cardinals (11-4) earned co-FCIAC championship honors with Darien, which beat New Canaan, 3-0, in the other semifinal game.

It was the first loss of the season for Wilton, which dropped to 17-1.

Greenwich coach Ally Orrico said of she knew the Cardinals were a great team, much better than the one that lost to Wilton 3-0 during the regular season.

“It was just a matter of execution, and today was the culmination of all the hard practice and all the hard work,” she said. “This was their best game. They executed the game plan perfectly.”

The game plan was “to let Freddie take control of the game.”

And that’s what Greenwich goalie Freddie Bancroft did, as she was sensational with 14 saves to earn MVP honors.

“She saved our butt the entire game,” said Stillman, who scored the game-winner after Wilton goalie Lizette Roman-Johnston tried to kick away a ball to the right of the Wilton cage.

The ball didn’t get far and wound up in front of the goal with a crowd of players. Stillman dove and got her stick on the ball, which deflected off a Wilton player before clunking off the back of the goal.

“It was the most amazing sound I could ever hear,” said Stillman.

Greenwich opened the scoring 13 minutes into the game on a goal by Sydney Cole. The play started on the other end when Ali Larkin broke up a Wilton attack just outside the circle and sent a ball up the sidelines. Cole ran onto the ball at midfield and put on a burst of speed to get by the last Wilton defender and to the right of the goal, where her attempted pass to Emily Brash in front deflected off a Wilton player’s leg and into the goal.

Wilton tied things just a minute later off a penalty corner, when Madison Hendry’s blast was tipped high into the cage by Valentina Tudisco from in front.

The Warriors controlled play the entire first half, in terms of possession and pressure, but couldn’t quite finish things off, with Bancroft kicking away dangerous balls and others rolling through the crease without Wilton being able to take advantage.

Wilton’s best chance of the half to take the lead came with about a minute left when Hendry, who stickhandling wizardry posed problems for Greenwich all game, sent a long pass to the right of the goal, where it was deflected just wide by a charging Tudisco.

The second half was an even more one-sided affair, at least in terms of ball possession and pressure, and Wilton had the Cardinals pinned in their own defensive end for nearly the entire 30 minutes.

But Bancroft was simply amazing in goal to keep the Cardinals in the game.

Wilton pressured immediately, with Hendry sending a ball to the left of the goal that Tudisco almost got her stick on in front, just 40 seconds into the half.

Three minutes later, off a penalty corner, a nice series of passes by Wilton set up Joanne Nazareth with a wide-open shot that hit off Bancroft and then deflected off the post. Tudisco tried to knock in the rebound but couldn’t get it past Bancroft, and after a scramble in front the Warriors were awarded another corner. This time, a blast by Jill Detrick-Yee was stopped by Bancroft.

About nine minutes in, Hendry stickhandled the ball into the arc and lifted a shot for the left side of the cage. Bancroft knocked down the ball with her hand and, after another scramble in front, kicked it clear. Less than a minute later, she kicked away another dangerous ball, leading to another Wilton corner. On the play, Hendry’s shot was deflected to the left of the cage, where Caroline DeAngelis dove to deflect the ball, but Bancroft kicked it clear again.

With about 13 minutes left, another corner resulted in another save by Bancroft. That was followed by another where, with a crowd in front and several Wilton players in position to knock in a loose ball, the ball hit a Warrior in the foot. A few minutes after that, on another corner, Bancroft made saves on a shot by Nazareth and another on the rebound attempt by Cailey Zengo.

Less than two minutes later, with just under 10 minutes to play, a nice exchange by Megan Ward and Hendry in the right side of the arc resulted in a wide open blast by Hendry that was turned away by Bancroft. Emmie Arrix was right in front to get the rebound, but the ball sped by her.

With seven minutes left, off a corner, Hendry’s blast was deflected high but Bancroft made the save, resulting in a scramble in front that led to another corner. This time, she made a incredible split save to turn away a shot by Nazareth. A minute later, on another corner, Nazareth’s blast was blocked by Liz Trotta.

The Cardinals did have a couple of dangerous runs over midfield by Cole in the second half that Roman-Johnston came out of goal to kick away, but never seriously threatened and only got the ball over midfield five or six times the entire half.

The Warriors had an 11-0 edge in penalty corners in the second half.

Wilton finished the game with a 15-0 advantage in penalty corners, and 15-2 advantage in shots at goal. Greenwich had possession inside Wilton’s arc only two times all game, and scored both times.

“They came out ready to play, and we did not,” Wilton coach Deirdre Hynes said. “Greenwich played unbelievably tonight.”

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