Fairfield Warde boys soccer advances to Class L second round

According to plan, perfectly, right out of the book.

The state Class L boys' soccer tournament game between the 12th-seeded Kennedy Eagles and the 21st-seeded Fairfield-Warde Mustangs was 37 and a half minutes old when Warde senior tri-captain Karl Rempe had a throw-in from the Kennedy 15 yard line.

"We play my throw-ins like we play corners," said Rempe. "We push everyone into the box, leave two people back, and just try to get our heads on it, since we have so much height. Perfectly, right out of the book we finish it. It goes in goal."

Rempe's throw-in sailed into the box and onto the foot of Mustang striker Guthrie Carpenter.

"I went up with a defender, and I got lucky," said Carpenter. "The ball came down, it came across my body, and I put it in the goal, in the back of the net."

Carpenter's volley ended the scoring for the night and the Mustangs moved on to the second round of the tournament with an upset 1-0 win over the Eagles.

"I need to compliment the team," said Warde head coach Justin Ottavio. "Last year's team was the best we've ever had as far as records and accomplishments, and we graduated eight starters. The team we currently have stepped it up and we're back in the same situation [second round of the state tournament] and it really is a testament to their work ethic.

"We said our goal was to make states and we've now made a wave," Ottavio continued. "It was 21 going in against 12, and it's a great accomplishment. I'm proud of them."

Ottavio had a lot to be proud of. The Mustangs controlled the first half with their best passing and ball control of their season, outshooting Kennedy 5-2 and keeping pressure on a tough Kennedy defense that surrendered only 13 goals all season.

"With our week off, we've been working a lot on just possession and moving the ball from side to side of the field," said Mustang senior tri-captain Filippo Cenatiempo. "We've been working on communication in practice and it showed in the game. We were able to talk and move off the ball and with the ball. It was a great showing in the first half."

The Mustang offense showed improvement in more than communication. Faced with an extraordinarily physical and aggressive Kennedy defense, the most consistent call against Warde was offsides, with strikers Guthrie and Jason Correia denied scoring opportunities again and again for being a half step too fast on passes from Kevin Petroccio, Taylor Rosenbloom, and Oliver DeBarros.

"We've been working really hard with our forwards to make those runs for us," said Cenatiempo. "We'll play over the top if we feel the defense push up, we'll try to get it to the guys. We didn't get our calls today and we got a couple of offsides, but we definitely got their defense on their toes the entire game."

The Mustangs enjoyed less of an edge in the second half, as Kennedy sensed an upset in the making and pushed up with their offense. Warde goaltender and senior captain Matt Freedman made four of his five saves in the second half, highlighted by two diving block, one on a point-blank shot by Eagle star Klint Bejler.

In the second half, Rempler narrowly missed two more assists, both off Carpenter's head. The first, in the 50th minute, came when Carpenter headed a free kick just over the Kennedy goal. The second, in the 70th minute, came when a throw-in caromed off Carpenter's head to Sal Siciliano, who was whistled offside uncovered corner at the Kennedy goal mouth.

The final five minutes of play tested the Warde defense, and Rempe, Siciliano, Phil Coletti, and Max Connor got plenty of help from their teammates as the clock ran down.

"We made a few mistakes, but people covered for each other and that's what defense is all about," said Freedman. "We don't defend one on one, but as a team."

With about a minute on the clock, Freedman dove onto a ball and took a few more critical seconds off the clock with a booming punt, and the Mustangs could look forward to Thursday's second round game against fifth-seeded Brookfield.

"Last year we lost to Brookfield, so if there's one team I want to play, it would be Brookfield," said Freedman. "They're a great team, but we're going to give it everything we have."