Girls soccer: Dejana's goal lifts Wilton to 1-0 win in state opener

Despite missing two key players, the Wilton High girls soccer team was able to advance in the state tournament.

The Warriors got a late goal from freshman Ally Dejana to edge conference rival Westhill, 1-0, in the first round of the Class LL tournament on Monday at Kristine Lilly Field.

The 15th-seeded Warriors will now play second-seed Newington in the second round on Wednesday in Newington. Newington received a first-round bye.

Wilton took the field against Westhill without leading scorer Paisley Eagan, a sophomore, and top defender Jillian Lauricella, a senior captain. Head coach Freya Coombe declined to elaborate on the  absences, but a source close to the squad said the two players had left the team for undisclosed reasons.

“I don’t want to comment about the players that are not here," said Coombe. "I just want to talk about the players that were here today.”

"It really wasn’t difficult to slot players into the open spots, because everybody knows what they need to do on the field to execute our game plan," added Coombe. "The whole team stepped up tonight and gave me a great effort. The team has shown great progress throughout the season and today was no different.”

One of the players Coombe praised was senior captain Taylor Ingerman. Westhill had the better of offensive play in the first half, only to find Ingerman anchoring the Warrior back line and putting a stop to the Vikings' rushes. Ingerman showed great anticipation to cut off passing lanes, track down 50-50 balls, and clear the ball out of harm’s way.

"We didn’t need a motivational speech before the game to get us ready to play," said Ingerman. “We felt if we could keep them from scoring in the first half we could tire them out in the second half with our through passes."

Coombe also applauded the efforts of Rebecca Hersch, Chloe Zimmermann, Zoe Lash, and freshman Bria Albanese, whom Coombe moved up from the junior varsity team for the state tournament. Hersch, Zimmerman and Lash stepped up their efforts in the win, and Albanese was a solid addition.

Neither team mounted a sustained attack in the first half, as both struggled to penetrate the final 18 yards of the field.

The game was six minutes old before the Vikings applied the first pressure and the Warriors answered with a scoring chance in the seventh minute. Freshman Lindsay Groves lofted a ball to the far post, but Hersch couldn’t get off a shot on net.

Westhill had a shot hit the crossbar in the 10th minute, but neither team could find the back of the net in the opening half, which ended in a 0-0 tie.

The Warriors then dominated the final 40 minutes, manufacturing chances every couple of minutes. Early in the second half, Groves played the ball into the Westhill box, where it found the head of Ingerman. Ingerman placed her attempt on net, but Westhill goalie Emily Pritchard was in perfect position for the save.

Midway through the half, Eva Greco settled a crossing passing, only to have her shot sail just over the crossbar. And in the 66th minute, Groves had her shot stopped by Pritchard.

Westhill's chances were limited in the second half, as the Warriors defense stood tall and got good support from its midfielders. The Vikings' best chance came off a direct kick from about 20 yards in the 52nd minute, but Wilton goalie Hana Previte was right on the mark, punching the shot — which was tracking toward the upper corner of the net — over the crossbar.

The Warriors finally broke through with 10:30 remaining in the game. Again it was Groves who set the table for her teammates. Groves worked the ball down the wing and lofted it on net. Pritchard made the save, but the ball got loose in front of the goal. Hersch and Dejana were at the doorstep, and Dejana put it high in the corner of the net for the game-winner.

“The girls showed a lot of character today and I’m very, very proud of these girls," said Coombe. "It’s been tough the last few days but we’ve come together and worked through it.”