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Wilton Breaks Darien's Title Grip in OT Thriller

WILTON, Conn. – The ball hung tantalizingly in the air for a brief moment with a trip to the Class M field hockey state finals in the balance. Valentina Tudisco looked like a softball player trying to put down a bunt instead of a field hockey player getting solid contact on a deflected shot.

With a satisfying “thunk,” the ball found the back of the cage, and the Wilton High School field hockey team ended years of futility against the one team that always had its number. The Warriors gave up a 2-0 lead but hung on to finally beat their rival Darien, 3-2, in overtime to move on to the state championship game.

“It’s absolutely amazing to beat Darien. I just want to scream,” a giddy Tudisco said. “We practice batting balls in the air all the time, and I just put it to good use. It was tough going into overtime, but we knew we just had to find it within ourselves to keep going and pull through.”

Tudisco’s goal might never have come to pass if not for the heroic goalkeeping of Lizette Roman-Johnson. The sophomore keeper stared down a breakaway by Darien’s Hollis Perticone early in the overtime period.

Perticone passed to teammate Lilly Cassidy, who had a wide-open shot to the net. Roman-Johnson somehow got back and lunged a leg out, just barely keeping the game alive.

“I had it in the back of the mind that it could be the last seconds of our season,” Roman-Johnson said. “I just knew to go all out.”

She topped herself after a penalty-shot save back in regulation. Roman-Johnson stonewalled Darien’s Galen Rohn with her left blocker, keeping the Wilton lead at 2-1. Although Darien tied it up minutes later, Roman-Johnson’s clutch save would eventually ensure overtime.

Wilton took a commanding 2-0 lead in the first half on a pair of goals by Megan Ward. Darien dominated the second half, however, and slowly chipped away at Wilton’s lead.

Cassidy cut the lead in half with 15 minutes to play in the second. Kat Huber netted the equalizer with 3:24 left in regulation, giving the Blue Wave the momentum entering overtime. After Roman-Johnson’s game-saving overtime stop, however, Wilton’s offense rose to the challenge.

“This really is our ultimate goal,” Roman-Johnson said. “Our coach always said a state championship isn’t really a state championship unless we beat Darien along the way.”

The Warriors will try to win their first state championship since 2006 at Wethersfield High School at 10 a.m. Saturday. Wilton takes on seventh-seeded Branford.

The loss breaks Darien’s four-year grip on the Class M title. It was just the second loss of the season for Darien, which had its 93-game unbeaten streak snapped by Staples in the conference semifinals earlier this month.

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for the latest Main Street Connect Coverage of Fairfield County sports. Like The Daily Wilton on Facebook.

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