DARIEN -- Several lengthy streaks were on the line when the Ludlowe girls soccer team came to Darien to take on the Blue Wave Thursday.
The Blue Wave were riding the momentum of a five-game winning streak, not to mention a six-game shutout streak that spanned more than 480 minutes -- or eight hours.
And, after losing their first four games of the campaign, the Falcons had crept back into FCIAC playoff contention with a six-game winning streak of their own, the last three of which were of the shutout variety.
Only one of the preceding streaks remained intact, as a penalty kick by Darien's Emily Stein with 9:49 remaining held up as the game-winner for the Blue Wave, which ran their winning streak to six and their unbeaten streak to seven with a 2-1 win.
Prior to Stein's shot into the bottom-right corner of the Ludlowe net, Darien's Kelly Karczewski dribbled into the box and drew the foul right before she could take her shot.
"Starting to win the 50-50 balls is what got the penalty kick. Kelly did an awesome job. That was her goal," Stein said after Darien improved to 8-2-1. "(The penalty kick) is just about being composed. It's easy to get really nervous and shoot it over the top, but sticking to a corner, you can't go wrong."
For Ludlowe (6-5-0), surrendering the penalty kick goal was a tough way to see its winning streak slip through its fingers.
"We knew coming in it was going to be a physical game, and we lost on a penalty kick. That's a tough call and a tough one to take, but we don't have a lot of time to dwell on it," Ludlowe coach Kate Dawson said. "We just have to focus on our next opponent."
Darien had the only corner kick of the first half, but it was set up by pure hustle and the Blue Wave made it count. Darien sent a long ball that appeared to be ticketed for the backline, which would result in a goal kick for the Falcons. A Ludlowe defender appeared content to let the ball roll out of play, but pressure by Darien's Katherine Cronin forced the Falcon defender to play the ball at the last second, deflecting it out of play for a corner.
Cronin took the corner kick, setting up teammate Alexa Sheldon for the header and a 1-0 lead just over 10 minutes into the contest.
"We give everything we have for each other," Stein said. "We used to play kind of selfishly and I think now we're all about the team. It doesn't matter who scores and who played well as long as we pull out the win."
Ludlowe's Lindsay Zilling nearly tied the game after slipping past Darien goalie Kellyn Berrigan (six saves), but Zilling's partially deflected shot brushed the outside of the right post and out of play.
Minutes later the Falcons hit that same post, but this time got a favorable bounce when Annie McNamara's long free kick hit the top of the right pipe before bouncing into the net, tying the game at 1-1 with 7:17 to go in the first half.
"We weren't really able to find our game today, which is a possession game and not playing balls in the air," Dawson said. "We had tough opponents to start the season, but I actually think that made us a stronger team."
The game was remarkably close throughout, as evidenced by Darien's narrow 13-12 advantage in shots.
Ludlowe's Casey Bradley had a chance for the equalizer, but her consecutive shots were both stopped by Berrigan, the second coming from point blank range.
Seeing his team pull out a victory in such an evenly-played contest was important for Darien coach Leigh Parsons, especially since Darien began to take the first noticeable upper hand in terms of times of possession early to midway through the second half.
"We knew we had to come out strong in the second half after conceding that goal," said Parsons, who praised the play of Dillon Schoen on the offensive end. "It says a lot. To be honest, we felt that they were winning more of the 50-50 balls in the first half. We knew we'd get a chance, and when we got it, could we take it? Emily Stein stepped up very calm and cool."
DARIEN 2, FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 1
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 1 0--1
DARIEN 1 1--2
Records: FL 6-5; D 8-2-1. Goals: FL--Annie McNamara; D--Alexa Sheldon, Emily Stein Assists: D--Katherine Cronin. Goalies: FL--Caroline Rooney (5 saves); D--Kellyn Berrigan (6). Shots: FL--12; D--13.