Girls soccer: Despite injuries, Warriors have sights set on titles
After a memorable 2016 season that saw its reach both the FCIAC and Class LL semifinals, the Wilton High girls soccer team had a lot to look forward to in 2017.
But while most of last year’s 15-6-1 team is back, not everybody is healthy— making it tough to know exactly how the Warriors’ season will go, especially in the first few weeks.
Wilton lost one returning starter on defense, senior Carly Lattimer, to an ACL injury suffered during the lacrosse season. And several other big names — goalie Taylor Floyd, midfielder Andrea Benalcazar, striker Lindsay Groves, midfielder Ally Dejana, defender Lauren Chiappetta — begin the season sidelined by injuries.
While all except Lattimer are expected back within the first two or three weeks, it makes it tough for head coach Renato Topalli to make an assessment of his team.
“When everybody’s healthy, we can compete with anyone,” he said. “We have some pretty key injuries.”
Wilton opens the season today at home (5) against Westhill.
Captains of this year’s squad are Floyd, Lattimer and senior center back Chloe Zimmerman, who as the lone returning starter in the back will be vital to the team’s defense.
“She had a great presence. She’s an awesome communicator and she organizes the other players,” said the coach.
The mix to fill out the back line includes Chiappetta and fellow senior Victoria Curley, juniors Grace Rava, Kaitlin Reif and Sara Wilshire, sophomore Olivia Gladstein and freshman Piper Chase.
“It’s pretty wide open. We’re giving everybody the same opportunity,” said Topalli of the defensive unit.
Floyd, a senior, was second-team all FCIAC last year but begins the season still battling the knee injury the ended her season last fall in the first round of the state playoffs.
“When she’s healthy she one of the best goalies in the FCIAC,” Topalli said. If Floyd is unable to go, the Warriors will look to returning senior Covadonga Perez and new sophomore Zoe Rappaport.
“We know we have two goalies who can step in if Taylor goes out,” said Topalli.
When healthy, Wilton’s midfield and forward lines will be formidable, with the team’s top four scorers from last year back in Groves, Dejana, Benalcazar and Sophie Sudano.
The midfield looks solid with returning starters in Benalcazar (a senior), Dejana (a junior), Zoe Lash (a senior) and Sudano, a sophomore who was second-team all-FCIAC as a freshman. The return of senior Paisley Eagan, who played her junior year at The Taft School, provides a huge boost. Eagan was Wilton’s leading scorer as a sophomore.
Also in the mix in midfield are senior Olivia Roman, juniors Izzy King, Delia Freliech and Olivia Borden, sophomores Elana Alber and Olivia Vittarelli, and freshman Libby Connolly.
On the front line, Wilton returns Groves, a junior who was first-team all-FCIAC last year, leading the team in goals. Eagan and Sudano could also see time on the forward line, along with senior Lily Macdonald. Rounding out the roster are freshmen Maddy Wecker and Ashley Carbonier.
While the team waits for its injured players to return to action, the other players have been given the opportunity to step up. That should help the Warriors over the long haul, said Topalli, as players battle for playing time.
“It’s good problem to have,” he said. “We have a bunch of great girls. The chemistry had been phenomenal so far and it’s a competitive group that wants to win and that pushes each other.”
Last year, Wilton reached the state semifinals for the first time in eight years, before falling to eventual champ Glastonbury 2-0. Topalli hopes that loss is a springboard to achieving this year’s goals of winning the FCIAC and state championships.
“They have a bittersweet taste about losing to Glastonbury in the semifinals and they want to get back there,” he said. “We’re happy about getting there but we feel we can do much better.”