‘We Won It for Him’: Taben Leads New Canaan Field Hockey Over Darien for FCIAC Crown


Two weeks ago this Saturday, field hockey was the last thing on Isabel Taben’s mind.

That evening, the Rams senior co-captain’s father Charlie suffered a heart attack. It was Isabel who ran into the street to flag down the first responders after they called 911. The medics saved his life. Charlie was rushed to the hospital, where he ultimately recovered from cardiac arrest.

“It’s a miracle,” Isabel’s mother Eve Taben told NewCanaanite.com. “It’s because of the New Canaan community that he lived. The police, the EMT’s, they were unbelievable.”

Charlie Taben spent one week in the hospital and eventually recovered. He was brought home the same day the Rams faced Fairfield Warde in the FCIAC quarterfinals. With her dad unable to attend the game, Isabel Taben took matters into her own hands.

“She said, ‘We have to win because my dad can’t come to this game, but he can come to the next game,’ ” Eve Taben recalled.

In that game Isabel scored two goals to lead the No. 4 Rams to a 3-1 win.

The “next game” would be the FCIAC semifinal against the top-seeded Wilton Warriors, who had finished the season 11-1-1. Their previous meeting was the season opener, where Wilton easily dispatched the Rams 4-1.

This time around things would be different.

An early goal by sophomore Ellery Baran held up as the only score of the game, and New Canaan advanced to the FCIAC championship game with a shocking 1-0 win.

Waiting for New Canaan in the finals was none other than No. 2 seed and two-time defending FCIAC champion, Darien.

And in the stands at Jack Casagrande Field in Norwalk for Thursday night’s contest was none other than Charlie Taben.

With her dad watching, Isabel Taben scored two goals in the championship game—the only goals of the game. New Canaan won its first FCIAC championship since 2000 with a 2-0 victory over its arch rival.

“I told the girls at halftime that I’m not a big believer in destiny,” said New Canaan head coach Erin Gildea, who 14 years ago was a player with the Rams on that last championship team. “But you just started getting the feeling that this was their year, and they were kind of a team of destiny.”

“I did this for my dad,” Taben—who was named as the game’s MVP—said. “He’s my best friend, we’re really close. He was able to come today and we won it for him.”

Taben’s first score came with 8:58 left in the first half. Senior Maddie Gertsen tipped a ball in front of the Darien goal and with Blue Wave goalie Kaeleigh Morrill sprawled out, Taben closed in on the loose ball.

“The goalie was lying on the ground and my girl was low to the ground so I knew I had to lift it over her,” Taben said. “So that’s what I did.”

Two minutes into the 2nd half, after receiving a perfect pass from senior Catherine Granito, Taben struck again.

“My teammate gave me a beautiful pass across the circle,” Taben said. “I knew I had to get my stick down and touch it, and it went right into the right corner.”

From there the New Canaan defense, which had thwarted several Darien flurries throughout the contest, took care of the rest. Defenders Claire Conley, Rhian Ball and Grace Manges formed an “iron curtain” in front of goalie Sarah Klearman, who racked up 13 saves en route to a storybook shutout of an FCIAC powerhouse.

“I think in that last 15 seconds with the two goal lead, I started to realize we were going to win this,” Gildea said. “People didn’t even think we were going to make this tournament at the beginning of the season. This group of girls deserves it. It’s a special group.”

Perhaps none more special than Isabel Taben.

The Taben family, Leah, Charlie, Isabel and Eve. Credit: Terry Dinan

The Taben family, Leah, Charlie, Isabel and Eve. Credit: Terry Dinan

“The fact that she’s even here and able to play is unbelievable,” Gildea said. “Her strength and her courage are unbelievable. She’s a great kid–it’s such a great thing to see her succeed.”

Two weeks ago this Saturday, field hockey was the last thing on her mind. Tonight, Isabel Taben and the Rams are FCIAC champions.

The 2014 FCIAC Champions.

New Canaan112
*Goals: NC - Isabel Taben, 2
*Assists: NC - Catherine Granito
*Saves: NC - Sarah Klearman 13; D - Kaeleigh Morrill 5.
*Shots: NC - 12; D - 18.

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