Girls soccer preview: Warriors ready for a fresh start

After a season of turmoil that saw three players quit and left many parents angry with school officials and the team’s coach, the Wilton High girls soccer team is focused on putting the episode behind it.

“They have a good attitude and they’re bonding well. Some girls didn’t have a good experience last year and they want to finish on a positive note,” said new head coach Renato Topalli. “The senior class has shown a lot of leadership and done a good job building team chemistry.”

Topalli is hoping to bring some stability to the program, which has had five head coaches in six seasons.

The season opens today at 3 at Westhill.

Building a sense of team has been the focus in the preseason, and so far Topalli is happy with how things over come together.

“The girls came in with a positive attitude. We’re just trying to give them a positive experience and get the program going in the right direction,” he said. “I think we have the right attitude this year.”

Topalli, an assistant under former head coach John Salvatore during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, replaces Freya Coombe, who resigned in February under controversial circumstances after just one season as head coach.

The Warriors lost eight players from last year’s 11-8-1 team that reached the quarterfinals in both the FCIAC and Class L playoffs. They graduated starters in Karen Brosko, Taylor Ingerman, Caraline Higgins, goalie Hana Previte, Rebecca Hersch and Jillian Lauricella, while junior Paisley Eagan, the team’s leading scorer last year and a first-team all-FCIAC pick, transferred.

Thirteen players are back, however, including many who started or saw significant playing time last season.

On the forward line, Wilton has a lot of options, with seniors Julia and Ashley Vittarelli, and Rebecca Wistreich, and two sophomores who were key performers a year ago in Lindsay Groves and Ally Dejana. Junior newcomers Carly Lattimer and Lauren Chiappetta will also see time up front.

The midfield is anchored by returning starter Andrea Benalcazar, a junior center midfielder, who will be joined by junior Zoe Lash, senior Catie Frankel and freshman Sophie Sudano. The Vitarelli sisters and Wistreich are also in the mix at midfield.

Junior Taylor Floyd, last year’s backup, will start in goal, behind a veteran defense that features center backs Brady Faria (senior) and Chloe Zimmerman (junior). Outside back are returning senior Paige Gladstein and new sophomore Grace Rava, with junior Bria Albanese and sophomore Izzy King also seeing time on the backline.

Rounding out the team are goalies Shannon Eustace, a senior, and Covadonga Perez Pelaez, a junior.

“We do have some leadership in the back. It’s a good thing to have on defense,” said Topalli, adding that one of the team’s main goals is to give a maximum effort every time out.

“We’re going to try to outwork every team,” he said. “We have a lot of talent on the field. We just have to figure things out and come together as a team.”