Eagan nets late goal as Wilton edges Staples

The Wilton girls soccer team took to Kristine Lilly Field on Saturday morning looking for a little revenge.

Wilton's opponent, Staples, had beaten the Warriors in both the FCIAC quarterfinals and the first round of the state tournament last year by scores of 2-0 and 1-0, respectively.

So when Paisley Eagan scored the game's only goal with 5:26 to play, the 1-0 victory was the Warriors' most meaningful so far this season.

“We wanted to win today for the seniors on the team, who had experienced last year’s defeats [to Staples]," said Wilton co-captain Taylor Ingerman. “Our team showed a lot of energy and effort today, which gave us the win. We played with a lot of heart and stayed focused on our goal."

With the triumph, the Warriors are unbeaten (6-0-1) in their last seven games. Following a 1-5 start, Wilton is now 7-5-1 this season and (with three regular-season games left) in contention for a spot in the FCIAC tournament.

Several minutes into Saturday's match, it was apparent that just one goal might decide the winner. And it came off Eagan's foot in the closing minutes.

On the decisive play, Eagan, who had several other earlier chances, found a small window of opportunity — and that was all she needed.

Eagan gained possession on the side of the Staples net (almost on the end line) about 15 yards out. With a Wreckers defender keeping Eagan from passing and not letting her go to the open field to her left, Eagan dribbled in, created a little space and, with the goalie hugging the post, popped a shot over the keeper's right shoulder, just inside the far side of the net. It was the only place she could have placed the ball and scored.

Prior to the goal, Wilton was clearly having more sustained runs than Staples but had nothing to show for it.

In the 12th minute, Ashley Vitarelli sent a crossing pass to the goal mouth, but there were no Warriors on the doorstep to take advantage. Six minutes later, co-captain Caraline Higgins picked up a rebound in the goal box and got off a shot, but the Wreckers keeper made the save. And in the closing minutes of the first half, a quality chance by Eagan was stopped by the Staples goalie.

The Wreckers (7-5-1) weren’t without their chances, but Wilton received a strong performance from goalie Hana Previte and a defense led by Ingerman, co-captain Jillian Lauricella and Brady Faria. When they needed help, the Wilton midfielders peeled back and provided it.

In the 13th minute, Staples had three chances for a goal off a deep throw-in, but the Wilton back line stood tall and cleared the ball away. In the 25th minute, Previte went to the left side of the goal to defend a shot, but the ball crossed in front and was loose. Midfielder Rebecca Hersch alertly stepped in and cleared the ball out of harm's way. Previte then came up with a one-handed save and got control of the ball.

Both teams were awarded direct kicks just outside the goal box, but neither could capitalize are those chances.

"Before the game we talked to the team how important this game was to overcome the defeats last season, and that a win would prove to them that they have gotten past that," said frst-year Wilton head coach Freya Coombe. “We got off to a slow start today, but we picked up the pace midway through the first half.

"I told the team at halftime to build on the momentum from the first half and keep working hard," continued Coombe. "We also made some minor adjustments to what we were doing, and the girls did an excellent job executing the plan. I am extremely pleased at how the whole team played today, and this win is a great confidence booster for them."