Wilton falls to Rams in FCIAC girls soccer quarterfinals

New Canaan's Dillyn Patten and Wilton's Maddie Wecker pursue the ball during the FCIAC girls soccer quarterfinals Thursday at Dunning Field. - Dave Stewart photo
New Canaan’s Dillyn Patten and Wilton’s Maddie Wecker pursue the ball during the FCIAC girls soccer quarterfinals Thursday at Dunning Field. — Dave Stewart photo

The New Canaan girls soccer team has been playing with an underdog mentality for the entire season. It’s an approach which has served the Rams well.

Now the underdogs are one step away from the FCIAC title game.

Sophomore Emma Schuh helped end a back-and-forth battle when she scored off a pass from senior co-captain Kendall Patten in the 76th minute as fourth-seed New Canaan edged fifth-seed Wilton, 1-0, in the FCIAC quarterfinals Thursday at Dunning Field in New Canaan.

New Canaan (12-4-1) now will face rival Darien (10-5-2), the eighth-seed, in the semifinals on Monday at Kristine Lilly Field in Wilton.  The Warriors, meanwhile, will await the start of the Class LL state tournament.

The Rams gained a measure of revenge on Thursday, as Wilton had defeated New Canaan, 2-1, back on opening day.

“Earlier in the season, we lost to them and we really wanted to come out and just win it,” Schuh said. “Early in the season, there’s no trophy, but here, we want to make it to the end. That was the first game of the season and we knew we could do better.”

Wilton (10-4-3) faced a tough challenge, as the Warriors were playing their third game in four days and then had to contend with the loss of Boston College-bound midfielder Lindsay Groves, who left the quarterfinal with an injury late in the first half and did not return.

“She’s an important player to the team, so it definitely impacts,” said Wilton head coach Renato Topalli about Groves. “We had to make a couple of changes but it’s a team game. So there’s an opportunity for other girls to step up and I thought certain players certainly stepped up today. It’s part of the game. Injuries happen. Unfortunately, injuries have hurt us, but I’m proud of the girls who stepped up.”

New Canaan had the better of play for much of the game, especially in the second half when it tilted the field to the Wilton net. The Warriors had several quick counters but managed just a few clean shots, as Ram goalie Jordan Paterson was called on to make just three saves.

Both backlines held up well. The Wilton defense, featuring goalie Erynn Floyd (seven saves) along with backs Olivia Gladstein, Maddie Wecker, and Piper Chase among others, helped hold off New Canaan’s pressure.

“We played great defensively as a team,” Topalli said. “They kept us in the game. We had a couple of chances to score early; we didn’t get that done, and that put more pressure on us in the back. New Canaan, give them all the credit, I think the better team won today.”

New Canaan’s offense was persistent, and finally broke through in the 76th minute with the Kendall Patten-Emma Schuh connection. Patten controlled the ball on the right and crossed it perfectly to Schuh on the back post. The sophomore sent it home for the game’s only goal.

Wilton had one final chance in the closing moments, but Paterson came up with the save to seal the win for New Canaan.