On Senior Night, Slater nets winning goal for Wilton

The Wilton boys soccer team didn’t let Saturday’s exciting 1-0 road win over Staples cause them to lose focus or not bring the same passion into Monday evening's home game against New Canaan.

There was, after all, some built-in motivation.

Monday's game was Wilton's Senior Night, and the Warriors have a lot of seniors — 23 to be exact.

Fittingly, it was one of those seniors who supplied the biggest moment. Austin Slater scored his first goal of the season with under seven minutes to play, powering Wilton to a 2-1 victory over New Canaan at Kristine Lilly Field.

“It puts a lot of pressure on the team on Senior Night to come and get a win on a night that was recognizing most of the team,” said Wilton head coach Jim Lewicki, whose team is now 9-3-2 with two regular-season games left. “It’s their special time and you always want to come away with a win.

"That, coupled with the fact the team may be still thinking about the game last Saturday, gave me concern that they may not be up to the challenge," continued Lewicki. "But they showed no letdown and went about their business and came away with the win. The entire team worked hard all game and it paid off with the victory."

Wilton had the first chance to score, but an offsides call stopped the home team's push. In the 11th minute, a slide tackle by co-captain Patrick Prinner helped keep the Rams scoreless, as Prinner was all that stood in the way of a clear path to the net for a New Canaan forward. Then, in the 12th minute, Connor Ashley fired a shot that was denied by a nice save from Wilton goalie Mitchell Bascom.

The Warriors dodged another bullet when a shot by New Canaan's Brett Capone hit off the crossbar and was cleared out of the box by the Wilton defense.

After several failed connections, Wilton forwards Harry Allers and Jack Brandt combined for the game's first goal with 1:24 left to play in the first half. With Allers and a New Canaan defender shoulder-to-shoulder while rushing toward the Rams goal, Brandt hit Allers in stride with a quick pass. Allers went far corner to beat the keeper and give Wilton a 1-0 halftime lead.

New Canaan (3-6-5) got the equalizer in the 44th minute on a penalty kick to tie the game at 1-1. A Rams player was fouled in the box, and Capone stepped up and drilled his spot kick past Wilton goalie Grey Livingstone.

“What I like about this team is the player that committed the foul came to me and owned up to his mistake and knew what approach he’ll take the next time that situation arises,” add Lewicki.

Slater's game-winning goal came with 6:26 remaining. A ball that was played in from the wing missed the foot and head of Allers and fell to Slater, who was alone near the back post. Slater made the most of his chance, scoring cleanly to put Wilton ahead to stay.

"The coach [Lewicki] told us to start playing the ball to the wings to open up the field,” said Slater. “The pass missed Harry (Allers) and came to me and all I saw was an open net and I quickly kicked the ball in the net. It’s huge to get a win on Senior Night."