New Canaan blanks Darien to win FCIAC field hockey title
NORWALK -- If anyone embodies the mantra `defense wins championships' it's the New Canaan field hockey team.
Behind a dominant defensive effort the Rams won the FCIAC championship Thursday night, blanking rival Darien 2-0.
The win was goalie Sarah Klearman's second consecutive shutout as she blanked top-seeded Wilton in the semifinals as well.
"When you have a shut out like this it's not just about the goaltender," a humble Klearman said. "It's about everyone doing everything they can until the buzzer goes off and we definitely did that tonight."
The Rams had to survive an early onslaught by the Darien attack and only crossed midfield twice in the first 13 minutes of the game.
"I'm a defensive minded coach and the defense is absolutely unbelievable," New Canaan coach Erin Gildea said. "I think our corner defense is the best in the state and we're really big on fundamentals and communicating but they don't get enough credit."
In the 13th minute Isabel Taben connected on her first goal, capitalizing on a loose ball in front of the net to notch the first goal of the contest. Taben, who earned MVP honors, scored again two minutes into the second half after a beautiful crossing pass from Catherine Granito that set her up with an open cage.
Two was more than enough for a New Canaan defense that had the crowd chanting "Iron Curtain" throughout the night.
"We went through the year discovering our strengths," Klearman revealed. "At the end realized we do have an iron curtain back there so our strategy was to score the first goal and keep them out of the net."
The strategy worked to perfection and New Canaan was able to claim its first FCIAC championship since 2000, when coach Gildea was on the team.
"It's even better (as a coach) to be able to see such an amazing group of girls be rewarded for such hard work," Gildea said. "As good as they are at field hockey they're better kids so it's really special to be at the helm of that and see what they were able to accomplish tonight."
For Darien their hopes of a third straight FCIAC title were dashed, but coach Mo Minicus couldn't have been prouder of the effort her team put out. Her focus now moves on to the state playoffs where the Blue Wave look to repeat as champions.
"This is done; tomorrow we move on to states and we learn from this," Minicus said. "They played hard, they did the best they could, and we'll move on."
Coming into the tournament as the fourth seed and defeating both the top seed in Wilton and the two seed in Darien, New Canaan embraced the underdog role.
"I like the underdog role," Gildea said. "Wiltons an amazing team that's such a huge win so to back it up, a lot of people didn't even think we would make the FCIAC this year and we proved we can play with anyone in the state."
New Canaan 2, Darien 0
NEW CANAAN 1 1--2
DARIEN 0 0--0
Goals: NC-Isabel Taben 2. Assists: Catherine Granito. Goalies: NC-Sarah Klearman 13 saves. D-Kaeleigh Morrill 5. Shots: NC-12. D-18. Corners: NC-5. D-13.