Girls soccer: Warriors clinch playoff spot, advance to FCIAC quarterfinals Friday

It took the final game of the regular season to determine the eighth and final seed for the FCIAC girls soccer playoffs.

Entering today’s match at Kristine Lilly Soccer Field, the Wilton High girls soccer team owned that final spot, but was only one point ahead of Wednesday’s opponent, the Fairfield Ludlowe Falcons.

Ludlowe needed a win to overtake the Warriors, while the Warriors would clinch the final spot with a win or a tie.

Playing one of their best games of the season, the Warriors (9-6-1) came away with a 3-0 win to punch their playoff ticket. They will play at top-seeded Staples (12-3-1) in the quarterfinals on Friday at 3:30.

The semifinals will be played in Wilton at Lilly Field on Monday, with game times are 5 and 7.

The win was a bittersweet one that came with a price, however.

With 13:37 left to play in the game, two Wilton players and one Ludlowe player were issued red cards for fighting. All three players were ejected from the game, meaning Wilton’s two players will be ineligible to play in the team’s FCIAC quarterfinal game later in the week.

The Warriors’ Paisley Eagan was battling a Ludlowe player for the ball as it was going out of bounds near the Falcons’ bench, with both players ending up on the ground. An altercation ensued, in which Lindsey Groves came to the aid of her teammate. Both Eagan and Groves, along with Ludlowe’s McKenna Forrest, were issued red cards. By league rules, any player given a red card must sit out the team’s next game.

Wilton played one player short for the remainder of the contest.

As for the game, the Warriors came out and showed they wanted the final playoff spot, as they gave one of their better efforts of the year.

“We knew we had to come out and outwork them and that’s just what we did,” said head coach Renato Topalli. “We were a little more physical than usual and we committed a lot of fouls in the first half. Getting the game’s first score was huge for us. In the second half we changed it up a little and went more on the attack since we had the lead, and it worked with two more scores.”

He continued, “This was one of our best all-around performances this year. Everybody contributed to our defensive play and the back line was solid the entire game in support of our goalie, Taylor Floyd.”

The game was scoreless until the 17th minute of play. Andrea Benalcazar sent a long through ball to Groves on the right wing. The pass caught Groves in stride as she turned the corner on the final Falcon defender. Ludlowe’s goalie, Natalie Kelchner, came out to cut down the angle but Groves saw the open far post and her shot hit off the post and into the net for the 1-0 lead.

“Andrea’s pass made it easy for me and I’ve been working in practice on my attack angles, so I took the right angle this time and I saw the back post open and that’s where I put my shot,” said Groves. “I get great support from my teammates with their passes and I want them to pay off. We showed tonight that we wanted it more, as we played better as a team and we got a great team effort.”

Groves picked up her second tally of the game in the second half in the 56th minute. The ball fell to her foot and she found herself one-on-one with the goalie, as she lofted her shot high into the net to give the home team the 2-0 lead.

Wilton upped the lead to 3-0 in the 63rd minute when Sophia Sudano, the Warriors’ most focused and hardest-working player, sent a diagonal pass from midfield to Ashley Carbonier, who was open on the wing and banked her shot off the far post. The ball had just enough speed to cross the goal line for the score.