Neither the Fairfield Warde nor the Fairfield Ludlowe girls soccer teams were ecstatic--but neither was devastated. After 80 minutes of hard-fought soccer in Thursday's snow, rain, and cold weather, the town championship game ended in a 1-1 tie, giving each team a critical point toward a berth in the postseason.

"It's never pretty to walk away with a tie, but in a game like this, you're for the most part just holding your breath to see what happens," said Ludlowe head coach Tony Samuelian, acknowledging the slick field and the gusty winds that could have scored a goal without benefit of a human foot.

"The conditions were absolutely atrocious," Samuelian continued, "and it's a wonder that these kids played as well as they did. If it weren't for their adrenaline, the rivalry, forget it."

The adrenaline flowed early for Warde, and the Mustangs kept the ball in Ludlowe territory for the first eight minutes, with three early Caroline Lutz corner kicks and a run by Maggie Giambalvo the main scoring threats.

But 10 minutes into the game, Ludlowe's Chrissy Lozier was tripped 41 yards from the Warde goal and blasted a free kick that dropped just below the Warde crossbar.

"I didn't even know she was shooting, actually, until it was coming at me," said Mustang goaltender Ali Rocchi, who launched herself into a power-filled punch that deflected Lozier's attempt over the bar, "but thankfully I got it in time and knocked it over."

"It felt like a good shot," Lozier reflected after the game. "I hit it solid and she came up with a really great save. I'm still very impressed."

A minute later, Warde was back attacking, Emily Pullen on the right wing relaying a Giambalvo pass to Carly Mappa in the center. Ludlowe's rejection lasted only until Lutz led Hannah McGrath into the left corner and Falcon defender Christy Barre intervened, blasting the ball safely out of bounds.

The Mustangs clearly had the better of the first half of period one, but Ludlowe settled and coordinated their

offense, earning three corner kicks in the final 22 minutes.

Still, Warde had good opportunities. These opportunities included Amanda Gallucci's feed to Sarah Duffy at the edge of the penalty box in the 35th minute. Duffy's shot

rocketed harmlessly into the side of the Ludlowe net.

A scoreless first half seemed imminent until Duffy created a scoring situation.

"I got the ball back from their midfielder and I took it up," said Duffy. "I saw an opportunity and went for it and took it hard to the goal. I saw the goalie come out and released it into the right corner."

"Assist Duffy,

goal Duffy," laughed

Rocchi.

For the first half, a slight wind had favored the Mustangs, and the statistics followed suit. Warde led 1-0 and had a 5-3 edge in corner kicks.

That same slight wind favored the Falcons in the second half, and in the fourth minute freshman midfielder Katie Coyle sprinted up the left sideline with one thing on her mind.

"I was just looking for an open shot," said Coyle, who launched a rocket crossfield from 40 yards. "I was trying for a goal."

"I was just like watching it and it had a good dip, so I just thought it was going to go in," said the

freshman, "and then it did."

After Coyle's goal, more than 36 minutes remained on the clock, and neither team was ready to let the scoring end.

The second-half advantage fell to Ludlowe, which seemed to have more opportunities, although the Warde defense rose to every occasion.

Lozier's long pass to Gabby Rudolph spelled danger for Warde, but Lutz interposed herself between Rudolph and the ball, allowing Rocchi time to cover. Rocchi dove onto Mary Kamovitch's long, hard roller. Rudolph took another run but Keegan Thimons slowed her so that Rocchi could intervene.

"That's kind of the plan," said Warde head coach Tom Cunningham. "We knew they were going to be aggressive from outside and I told the

defenders to stay up and keep that separation for Rocchi so she has a space."

Cunningham's strategy worked well, keeping the Falcons at bay (despite their four to two advantage in second-half corner kicks) and preserving the tie.

How even, really, was the matchup? Seven to seven in corner kicks. Four saves apiece for Rocchi and Blakeley Zecker, her Ludlowe counterpart. 1-1 on the scoreboard.

Ludlowe (6-3-2) has one more point than Warde (5-2-4) in the scramble for a berth in the county tournament. Each team, with three FCIAC games left, faces two top-eight-in-the-county opponents.