Girls soccer: Wilton rallies to beat Westhill on Senior Night

The Wilton girls soccer team had a lot riding on Thursday night's game against Westhill at Kristine Lilly Field. It was Senior Night for the Warriors, and they were trying to rebound from their first loss in eight games.

Most important, though, Wilton needed a win to keep its FCIAC playoff hopes alive.

It didn't look good: Just 10 minutes into the contest, Wilton found itself in an early 2-0 hole. But the Warriors got one goal back before halftime and then scored the only two goals of the second half to rally for a 3-2 victory.

With the win, Wilton improved its record to 8-6-1 and moved into seventh place in the FCIAC overall standings. The Warriors can clinch one of the eight playoff spots outright by beating Norwalk in the regular-season finale next Tuesday.

The game got off to a fast start, with the Vikings putting a shot on net in the first minute and Wilton registering its first shot in the following minute. Sophomore Andrea Benalcazar then watched her shot bounce off the Westhill crossbar and go straight down — but not over the goal line — before being cleared.

Alex Fischer scored in the eighth minute for the Vikings, who added their second goal just two minutes later. Wilton goalie Hana Previte got caught out of position, leaving the net wide open for the goal. Previte settled in after that and was rock solid the rest of the way, making several key saves to keep Westhill from scoring again.

The Warriors got one goal back in the 20th minute. Benalcazar played a perfect though ball to Paisley Eagan, who was splitting two Viking defenders. Eagan found herself one-on-one with the Viking keeper, picked her spot, and sent a shot past the goalie for the score, cutting Westhill's lead to 2-1 at halftime.

"We felt we had the momentum ... and we told the team to get out fast in the second half and keep the momentum going,” said Wilton head coach Freya Coombe. "This team has a lot of character, and we get great efforts out of our players. With it being Senior Night, we told them that this is a special night and to go out and take away a positive experience."

Play at the start of the second half belonged mainly to the Vikings, but Previte and senior  defenders Taylor Ingerman and Jillian Lauricella held the visitors at bay.

In the 49th minute, spectators got to see a beautifully executed goal. Wilton freshman Lindsay Groves played a picture-perfect ball from the wing to the front of the goal, where it found the head of Eagan. Eagan headed the ball out of midair right at the perfect time and angle, beating the Westhill keeper to tie the game at 2-2.

The game-winner came in the 61st minute, as senior Rebecca Hersch scored on an assist from Eagan. With her back to the net and a defender on her, Eagan pooched the ball to Hersch, who went near corner for the deciding goal.

"There are no words to describe how I feel and how happy I am," said Hersch after the game. "I’m just so happy that I was able to score for my team and give us the lead. We have a bunch of players on the team that have a lot of drive and a lot to prove.”

With their first lead, the Warriors stayed focused and composed to preserve the 3-2 victory.

One key for Wilton was the the play of sophomore Brady Faria, who spent the second half marking Westhill's most dangerous player, Chelsea Domond, and limiting her influence. In the first half, Domond had given Wilton all it could handle, using her quickness and dribbling skills to put pressure on the Warriors.

"Brady (Faria) had done a great job in other games shutting down our opponent’s key players, so I put her on Domond in the second half and she did a wonderful job keeping her in check," said Coombe.