Sanford’s penalty stroke lifts New Milford past New Fairfield
NEW FAIRFIELD — The signature win eluded the New Milford field hockey team all season long despite a number of close calls and a much better group than its 6-7-2-1 record might suggest.
There wasn’t a better time than the postseason to score the elusive upset.
Emily Sanford’s penalty stroke with 14:12 was all that separated the No. 5 Green Wave and No. 4 New Fairfield last week, sending New Milford to a 1-0 win in a tight SWC quarterfinal.
“It feels really good because we worked really well as a team,” New Milford senior Sophie Danish said. “We played New Fairfield (a 1-0 loss October 13) and it was a tough game, but we came together.”
New Fairfield was penalized as a shot that destined for the goal was ruled to be blocked by a defensive player on the line. Sanford lifted a shot into the left side of the cage to give her team the lead.
“It was a good one, Emily has a good shot,” New Milford coach Dawn Hough said. “She’s been shooting well lately and she’s a little deceptive; she can go either way, high or low, so it’s hard for a goalie to stop it.”
“It was pretty nerve-wracking, and all the pressure was on me,” Sanford said. “I’m just telling myself in my head not to mess up.”
The Green Wave defense did the rest, and, despite long periods of possession in the second half, the Rebels were unable to get the ball over the line. The Rebels had 6-3 edge in penalty corners.
New Milford — which lost a pair of one-goal decisions against Pomperaug during the regular season — lost four times by a single goal. The Green Wave also played Hall and New Canaan.
“There’s no games we played this year that we didn’t think we had a chance if we played smart field hockey,” Hough said. “We make a difficult schedule on purpose. We played three teams in the top 10 and a difficult schedule. It’s a learning process.”
The Green Wave visited top-seeded Pomperaug Monday for a spot in the final, but lost 3-0.
The Rebels (12-4-1) won their last seven games while only giving up one goal, setting the stage for a possible run through the tournament. But several key opportunities went by the wayside and a 1-0 loss without giving up a goal from open play was the result.
“It’s never fun to lose like that,” New Fairfield coach Karen Nell said. “It puts so much pressure on one person on the team. We certainly feel like we had more opportunities to score throughout the game, but we just couldn’t convert.”
“I think we’re going to come together as a team and we’re going to keep fighting through,” New Milford’s Erinn O’Hara said. “I think a lot of people think we’re the underdogs right now but we’re going to take it to them all day, every day.”