Field hockey teams play to draw

Jodie Shannon has been coaching field hockey in the town of Fairfield too long to get fooled by a little early success.
So when Fairfield Warde’s junior Darci Byington punched in a goal during the third minute of Thursday night’s FCIAC showdown with cross-town rival Ludlowe, she wasn’t about to get comfortable.
“This game has always been close,” said Shannon, who coaches players from both teams during the offseason and was there before the town was split into two high schools. “There’s a couple of overtimes in there, a couple of last-minute shots in there. I know a lot of these girls and I know what they can do.”
Shannon’s instincts ended up being dead on, as Ludlowe came back to score the tying goal then held off a swarm of Warde scoring opportunities to pull out a 1-1 tie under the lights at Taft Field.
Warde (4-3-1 overall, 3-3-1 FCIAC) was awarded a stunning 16 penalty corners behind solid work in the offensive zone by Byington and senior Emily Allen, whose speed and talent in the open field helped create more than a few good scoring chances.
“She can totally change the feel of the game,” Shannon said of Allen, who assisted on Warde’s only goal while nearly scoring a few of her own.
“There’s a lot of pressure on her to do it all the time. She’s really a step above most high school players.”
The Mustangs, who outshot the Falcons 12-7 and finished with a 16-6 advantage in penalty corners, just could not get off enough quality shots.
Ludlowe’s goal, scored by junior Caroline Power after an initial pass by senior captain Megan Thompson started a scramble in front of Warde goalie Katy Sepsis (three saves) with 7:05 left before halftime, ended up being the equalizer.
The rivals battled through 60 minutes of regulation and 10 minutes of 7-on-7 overtime with no resolution.
“I think our shots were so unnerved that we couldn’t get a solid hit on it,” Shannon said. “We were trying to pass it so much once they saw we lost confidence in the hard pass, and we weren’t making those.”
Ludlowe (5-2-1 overall, 4-2-1 FCIAC) stood firm on defense behind the play of senior Sydney Shaffer and goalie Riley Thompson, who made a number of big saves, including a 1-on-1 stop on junior Kelly Milicia with 13:00 left in the second half off a great odd-man breakout pass by Allen.
Warde had a great chance to go ahead after earning three straight penalty corners with no time left on the clock at the end of the first half, but Shaffer blocked a shot on the left side and senior Aliza Schaffer denied another by Allen to keep the game tied.
“I think my defense showed a lot of fortitude,” Ludlowe head coach Cathy Hamill said. “It was a very exciting game. Momentum kept swinging. We had a great view of a great game.”
The result was typical of a Warde-Ludlowe game. This is the third tie in the series 2007. Warde, which also received solid efforts from Erin Hines at midfield and Elizabeth Gallucci on defense, owns a slight edge in the head-to-head series having posted a 4-1-3 record against the Falcons dating back to 2006.
Ludlowe had won five straight before suffering a 6-0 setback against perennial FCIAC and state powerhouse Darien.
“After losing to Darien like that I think a lot of the girls took it to heart,” Hamill said. “I was really happy to see them bounce back the way they did.”
The tie allows both teams to remain in the upper-middle half of the FCIAC standings.

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