Girls soccer: Wilton rebounds from opening loss, nips Norwalk 1-0

After opening the season last Saturday with a disappointing 7-1 loss to Westhill in Stamford, the Wilton High girls soccer team worked hard and rebounded nicely in their home opener on Tuesday with a 1-0 shutout of the Norwalk Bears at Kristine Lilly Field.

In postgame interviews with Wilton coaches and players, it felt like they would be letting Kristine Lilly down if they had lost their first home game of the season, giving them the extra incentive to come away with a win.

The win evened the team’s record at 1-1.

The game’s only goal came off the foot of sophomore Lindsay Groves, assisted by senior co-captain Ashley Vitarelli with just 8:13 remaining in the contest. Vitarelli possessed the ball on the wing and played a perfect crossing pass into the goal box, where Groves sized up the Norwalk goalie and found the back of the net with her shot.

“Ashley (Vitarelli) always puts great crosses from the wing and just wanted to put myself in the right position for her pass,” said Groves. “As I was waiting for the ball I watched what the goalie was doing and her position and I knew if I hit right I would score”.

Groves, who has that extra gear to get down the field on her wing, had several chances for goals throughout the entire game.

“I was trying everything to get a goal, but their defense kept me from turning the corner and their goalie was in perfect position on my shots. Yeah, I got a little frustrated, but as a team we kept working hard and it finally paid off,” she said. “The coaches told us that our loss to Westhill could be the best thing or the worst thing that happened to us, and it was up to us to determine that.”

Play in the first half was controlled by the Warriors, as they kept offensive pressure on the Bears’ keeper. But Imelda Lazaro, who was injured in the first minute of play and only sat out one play, made several saves to keep the game deadlocked at 0-0.

In the 25th minute of play, Groves’ shot from the wing went over the net and two minutes later Ally Dejana’s shot attempt was wide of the net.

The Bears did have a direct kick in the 29th minute just outside the goal box, but the shot sailed high over the net.

The Warriors as a team played with great composure and were positioned well to take whatever Norwalk threw at them. That was quite evident by the play of Wilton middle backer Chloe Zimmerman. She held her line the entire game, read the play and kept the ball and any attacker in front of her protecting her goalie.

In the second half, the Bears showed a little more of a defense set to keep the Warriors off the board, but still attacked when the opportunities arose.

Early in the second half, Groves popped her shot over the attacking goalie, but her shot attempt was high. Just over a minute later, Andrea Benalcazar’s direct kick from 22 yards out went wide.

Norwalk was getting better looks at the Warrior goal, but Wilton keeper Taylor Floyd was there for the saves. In the 61st minute, Floyd was in perfect position to save a Norwalk direct kick from just outside the goal box.

But it was in the 64th minute when Floyd came up with the game saver. A Norwalk player took a mid-range shot with the perfect arch to go over Floyd’s head. But she jumped high and tipped out of harm’s way out of bounds.

“That was a huge save that she made and could have made the outcome of the game totally different,” said Wilton head coach Renato Topalli. “We had practiced that type of saves before the game and I guess it paid off. I think her save help lift the team to go down the other end to get a score.”

He continued, “Today we had a lot of chances to score and we didn’t, and we need to get better with our chances. The team found a way to win, which shows how hard they worked and kept working at it. We were more mentally prepared for today’s game, as we clearly were not against Westhill. We underestimated them and we paid the price. We made some lineup and position changes from Saturday’s loss and simplified our system for today’s game. We have a lot of talent on this team. We just need to get some varsity game experience under our belts.”