With six injured starters standing on the sidelines in street clothes and warmup gear, the Wilton High girls soccer team certainly was the underdog in Wednesday's Class LL second-round game against St. Joseph in Trumbull.
But despite trailing 1-0 late in the second half, the 11th-seeded Warriors found a way to get the victory and stun sixth-seed St. Joseph, which had moved up to Class LL after winning the last three Class L state titles.
After Ashley Carbonier scored with 10:27 remaining to tie the game and force overtime, Wilton went on to earn a 2-1 win (9-8 on penalty kicks) over the Cadets.
With the victory, the Warriors move on to face 19th-seed Simsbury in the quarterfinals on Friday at 2 p.m. in Wilton. Simsbury upset third-seed Southington 1-0 (6-4 on penalty kicks) in another second-round game Wednesday.
There was only one save made in the two rounds of penalties, and that was Wilton goalie Erynn Floyd's diving denial on St. Joseph's fifth attempt in the second round.
Floyd is a freshman who earned the starting job earlier this fall. Other underclassmen who otherwise might be on the bench or playing sparingly have stepped up as Wilton starters have gone down with injuries throughout the season.
“It’s been a lot of fun watching them rise to the occasion,” said Wilton coach Renato Topalli. “It’s really fun to see these young players get the experience and make the most of it.”
The Warriors were just over 10 minutes away from seeing their season end when Ally Dejana got the ball along the left sideline and sent a long, cross-field pass to Carbonier. Carbonier made a run up the right side and sent her shot inside the far post to knot the score at 1-1.
Strong defense from several players, including underclassmen Mia Pepitone, Shelby Dejana and Janet Johnson and senior Isabella King, held a strong St. Joseph offense to just a first-half goal by Sophia Lowenberg, who scored off Maddie Fried's free kick.
Off a corner kick in the second half, Johnson made a great stop of what looked to be a certain St. Joseph goal, keeping the deficit at 1-0.
“She was in the right position, right time,” said Topalli, adding that the Warriors practice where to be in order to try to deny opponents on corner kicks.
Wilton also does its share of penalty kick rehearsals.
“You can train them ... you can take 100 of them ... but when you get up (to take one] it’s a mental thing,” said Topalli about spot kicks.
The Warriors, however, made it look automatic, converting on all nine of their penalty kicks. St. Joseph missed on its seventh kick, and Floyd then sprawled to her left to save Ashley Collins' shot on the Cadets' ninth attempt, sealing the win for Wilton.
Notes: Converting their penalty kicks for Wilton were Shelby Dejana, Olivia Gladstein, Carbonier, Ally Dejana, Elizabeth Connolly, Piper Chase, Maddy Wecker, Elana Alber, and Amelia Hughes.
Grace Hickey made six saves for St. Joseph, while Floyd stopped nine shots for Wilton.