Fairfield Warde girls soccer eliminated from FCIAC playoffs by New Canaan

In late September, the regular-season game between the Fairfield-Warde girls' soccer team and New Canaan ended in a scoreless tie, so neither team was under any illusion that Saturday's matchup in the FCIAC quarterfinals would be an easy win.

The rematch was just as even for 80 minutes, with the teams managing only a total of nine shots, four for Warde, five for New Canaan. That extra shot was the difference, as the Rams moved to the FCIAC semi-finals with a 1-0 victory.

"We knew, coming into this game, what we were going to be seeing, and New Canaan is a very good team," said Warde head coach Tom Cunningham. "We'd have loved to come away with a different result, but the effort that the girls put out was what I expect from them every day."

Four minutes into the game, the Warde defense got its first test. Goaltender Ali Rocchi (four saves) came out to cut a looping New Canaan lead pass. For a split second, the Warde goal was open, before Kristen Burns and Alex Kelly converged on the ball and New Canaan striker Caroline Murray, who would ultimately score the Rams' winning goal.

The Mustangs returned fire with Keegan Thimons' lead pass to Carly Mappa on the right wing. When Mappa was tripped, the Ram defense had to reject Caroline Lutz' free kick into the New Canaan penalty box.

Neither team could establish a clear advantage, as both defenses kept the shots distant. A five-minute Mustang possession ended when Sarah Duffy was tripped at the edge of the New Canaan penalty box, and within four minutes, New Canaan had earned the first two corner kicks of the game.

Then, with under two minutes left in the first half, Murray slipped past the Warde defense. Her angled shot from the right crossed the goal face and gave the Rams their 1-0 winning edge.

New Canaan opened the second half with good pressure, earning two corner kicks in the first two minutes, but they could not sustain the attack. The next good opportunity for either team came five minutes later, when Lutz found Hannah McGrath in the left corner and Ram goalie Holly Burwick (four saves) smothered McGrath's centering pass. For the rest of the game, the battle was even.

"We came in and knew it was going to be a good game, a tough one," said multi-captain Maggie Giambalvo. "I'm so proud of the way everyone played. I think we played for all 80 minutes. Everyone gave 100%."

With their FCIAC season ended, the Mustangs can now look forward to Monday, when they start the state Class L tournament.

"I think as long as we bring the same energy we had today and keep our possession up, we can definitely go far in the tournament," Giambalvo concluded.

"Class L is open for anybody," added Cunningham. "We want to compete with all the teams. New Canaan's in there, so if we see them again, I'll be looking forward to another great game."