Wilton rallies for 2-1 win in FCIAC quarterfinals
After not qualifying for the post-season last year, the Wilton boys soccer team is now one win away from reaching the conference finals.
Scoring two goals in the final four minutes, the fifth-seeded Warriors stunned fourth-seed Greenwich, 2-1, in an FCIAC quarterfinal game Thursday at Greenwich High School.
Wilton (9-2-6) will play top-seed Fairfield Warde in the semifinals next Monday or Tuesday at Fairfield Ludlowe High School. The winner advances to the conference title game next Thursday night at Norwalk High School.
“None of these boys have experienced an FCIAC tournament game, let alone an FCIAC win,” Wilton first-year coach Edwin Carvajal said. “For us to make states and FCIACs is admirable. This is a moment they’ll remember for quite some time.”
Trailing by one goal, Wilton scored the equalizer with 3:16 remaining, then added the go-ahead goal at the 2:10 mark and held on to beat the host Cardinals.
As thrilling as Thursday’s triumph was for the Warriors, it was equally disappointing for Greenwich (10-5-2). The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead with 11:10 left in the second half and seemed primed for a berth in the semifinals.
“We did everything we needed to do; our game plan was exactly right,” GHS coach Kurt Putnam said. “We got up one-nil with 11 minutes left to play, then it comes down to game management. Instead of playing the corners and playing the long diagonals and pinning them back, we played possession in the middle of the field instead.”
Junior forward Jake Lash scored the game-winner for Wilton in the 77th minute. Gathering the ball off a free kick, junior forward Nathan Bennett made a strong run down the left sideline, then sent a cross to a charging Lash, who was positioned at the right post. Lash calmly finished in front of the net to put the Warriors ahead.
“I just ran to the back post when Nathan was running down the line and the ball came across to me,” Lash said. “Earlier, my coach told me to get wider and it helped on that play. I had a good run and I was open for a shot.”
Lash believed Wilton received an energy boost following Greenwich’s go-ahead goal.
“I thought we had a lot of momentum after that goal; we were a new team,” Lash said.
The Cardinals, who posted a 4-2 regular-season win over Wilton last week, took a 1-0 lead on junior Tadeo Mendive’s goal in the 69th minute. Greenwich senior Max Pisacreta sent his free kick on the artificial turf 30 yards up the field. The ball rolled past numerous players and found the foot of Mendive, who used a good first touch to get past a defender before knocking a shot past Wilton sophomore goalie Jack Lynch inside the left post.
The Cards kept their edge until the Warriors forced a free kick with just over three minutes remaining. Wilton senior Karl Pfeiffer booted his free kick from 45 yards out deep into a Greenwich box croweded with players. Greenwich senior goalie Padraig Colligan attempted to catch the ball but seemed to get caught up in the traffic in front of the net and screened by players, and Pfeiffer’s kick went over his head and settled into the net.
“I couldn’t believe it ... I was just trying to put it on goal,” Pfeiffer said. “I was trying to get it to our striker Michael (Zizzadoro), or one of our strikers, so they could put it away and instead the kick went right in the goal.”
Pfeiffer felt his squad was especially inspired during the latter portion of the second half.
“I think once Greenwich scored to take the lead it put us in another gear and made us want it even more,” Pfeiffer said. “We seemed to have more intensity after that.”
Lynch made six saves in goal for Wilton, which registered 11 shots on goal. Colligan recorded nine saves for Greenwich.
In the back-and-forth game, Greenwich had a scoring chance in the ninth minute but Joao Lima’s cross was just wide. In the 29th minute, Lynch made a diving save off a Greenwich header following a corner kick from Matias Lew.
Zizzadoro, Liam McLaughlin and Owen Lillis created chances throughout for Wilton, with Colligan making several first-half saves to keep the Warriors scoreless.
“I thought we did a good job on No. 24 (Zizzadoro),” Putnam said. “It was an even game and we did a good job of neutralizing their threats and opportunities.”
“This is a big step for our team,” Carvajal said. “The boys really did fight to get better this season. I remember the last time we played Greenwich, we were getting opportunities, but not finishing. Finishing and not giving up the easy goal were two aspects we were focusing on this time.”