Fairfield Warde field hockey transforms from doormat to contender in two short years
Published 3:45 pm, Thursday, November 4, 2010
In two short years, Fairfield Warde field hockey has gone from laughingstock to FCIAC power.
In 2008, the Mustangs won just three games. However, this year Warde has been much better, especially in the FCIAC playoffs as the Mustangs have outscored their opponents 10-0 in two FCIAC tournament games en route to the FCIAC Championship Game against top-seeded and undefeated Darien, Friday at 4 p.m. at Brien McMahon High School.
"This is the first time that we're a scoring team," senior Darcy Berger said. "To score 10 goals in two games is an amazing feeling."
Warde's varsity squad is one of the smallest in the in the state, as its unit competes with 28 players. The team does not have enough players for a freshman team, therefore four freshman are on the varsity roster and each sees playing time.
"We are one of two FCIAC teams without a freshman team," head coach Jodie Shannon said. "Most of our subs our freshmen, we need to use every body we can."
In 2008, Warde lost 11 of its final 13 games after a 2-1 start. The Mustangs only won two FCIAC games two years ago, tying two others. Warde only scored just seven goals in 17 games.
The Mustangs fared much better in 2009, winning eight games and qualifying for the FCIAC playoffs. However, Warde only won one of its final 10 games after a 7-0 start after forward Christie Zierolf was injured.
This year was different, though. The Mustangs found ways to score early with a potent front line. Berger and Lauren Allen have led the way for Warde up front, but depth in scoring has not been an issue either. Stacey DiLeo and Lindsay Adams have chipped in tallies as well in the FCIAC playoffs.
"It goes in waves," Shannon said. "If we get a good class it makes a world of difference for our team."
Warde has also benefitted from having an excellent goalie, in senior Jess Deutsch. The Lafayette College-bound senior has eight shutouts this season, including two straight in the playoffs. Deutsch stopped a whopping 21 shots in the Mustangs' 4-0 semifinal win over Greenwich. Thus far Deutsch is 25 for 25 in shots stopped in the FCIAC tournament.
"I really wanted to stick it to them," Deutsch said. "I want to get as many shutouts as I can this season."
Aiding Deutsch's goals against average has been the play of Warde's three starting defenders -- Isobel Curtis, Sara Fabri and Becca Smith -- each of whom are sophomores. Deutsch admitted having some trepidation about playing behind them in the beginning, but it is all good for her and Warde now.
"I have an awesome defense," Deutsch said. "I was worried in the beginning of the season, but I'm so proud to call them my defense now."
Warde closed its final six regular seeason games 3-3, with each loss coming against FCIAC playoff competition, including a 2-1 loss to Greenwich. Shannon admitted that her squad was excited to take on the Cardinals in the FCIAC semifinal, because Greenwich knocked the Mustangs out of FCIACs in 2009. Shannon had only ever beaten Greenwich once in her coaching career in Fairfield, a 3-2 win as Fairfield High School in the 2004 Class L state championship game.
"I had told them that I had only beaten them once," Shannon said. "We all had hoped that it was Greenwich in the end."
If Warde is going to win its first FCIAC championship, it is going to have to go through the dynasty that is Darien. The Blue Wave has not lost a game since 2007 and has won 33 consecutive games as the two-time defending FCIAC and Class M champions.
However, Darien only beat Warde 2-0 in the teams' first meeting this year, and the Mustangs are confident that the second time will be the charm.
"Darien is going to be the final nail in the coffin," Berger said.