Fall sports big success for Fairfield schools
What a fall it was.
Not too long ago, I stood on the track at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven, trying very unsuccessfully to not freeze my "you-know-what" off, while watching the Warde girls' soccer team play Glastonbury for the Class LL championship.
After 80 minutes of regulation (c-c-cold) and another 30 of overtime (really, really, c-c-cold) it was the Tomahawks, not the Mustangs, that captured the state championship plaque with a 2-1 double overtime victory. And while there was incredible disappointment and heartbreak in not capturing the CIAC crown, Warde won 17 games, tied for the FCIAC tournament title and was the Class LL runner-up.
"A tremendous season," said Mustangs coach Tom Cunningham.
And you know what? The Warde girls weren't the only city school to have a tremendous season. All in all, 10 teams from Warde, Ludlowe, Prep and Notre Dame played in state tournament games. And a couple of them made history.
Before this season, the Notre Dame-Fairfield girls' soccer team had never made the CIAC tournament. Ever. In fact, the Lancers had never had a winning season -- ever -- since the program's creation back in 1994. Heck, their best year? Five wins. But this year, everything clicked. Under new head coach Wayne Mones, Notre Dame won the most games it ever had, 11, in the regular season, reached the semifinals of the Southwest Conference tournament and advanced to the Class S semifinals.
When you consider that just two years ago, the Lancers went 1-15 and were outscored 104 to 5, it's nothing short of mind-boggling what ND did on the field this year. And the cool thing? It could be even better next fall.
Samantha LaValle, who scored 10 goals in the CIAC tournament and had 26 for the season, is just a sophomore. Goalkeeper Sierra Chavez, who had 11 shutouts, is a junior, as is Bryanna D'Arcangelo. Nazae Craw, Brianna Kydes and Erika Quinones were all sophomores and Katie Ciufo, Alex Lucke and Olivia Henrietta were freshmen. This year was a season of firsts for the Lancers. Next year could be a season of championships.
Likewise for the ND boys' soccer team. The last time the Lancers qualified for the CIAC tournament was in 1993 (when I still had brown hair) but thanks to a couple of freshmen from Brazil, Felipe Canzian and Renan Giuberti, and a host of sophomores, including Max Cano, Connor Jorge, Pedro Oliviera, Jeff Franco and Sebastian Habelaez, ND went 7-6-3, the first .500-plus season in 21 years and played Lyman Memorial in the Class S tournament, losing in the final minute, 1-0. Things can only get better for the Lancers next year.
"I have not had a .500 season here (12 years), not here. It's tremendous," Lancers coach Whitey Budreckas said. "Next year's going to be good."
And while there was history made at ND, there was heartbreak at Ludlowe as the boys' soccer team -- fresh off the FCIAC tournament championship -- was stunned in its opening round Class LL tournament game, losing to Glastonbury (who would go on to win the LL title) in the final minute, 2-1, ending a 19-game (16-0-3) unbeaten streak.
"It's a tough way to end," Ludlowe coach Kevin O'Hara said. "We had an incredible year. We're 16-1-3. It hurts right now and it's going to hurt for a while, but when we look back at the season we've had, we'll know that it was an incredible run."
It was the same fate for Fairfield Prep, who captured the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament championship with a 3-2 penalty kick win over Hand, only to lose to Conard in the opening round of the CIAC on penalty kicks, ending their season at 12-6-2.
Warde, who finished with a 6-8-3 record, qualified for the Class LL tournament but lost in the opening round to FCIAC rival Danbury 2-1.
The Mustangs field hockey team also qualified for the Class LL tournament and defeated Trumbull 4-0 in the qualifying round but lost to Conard 3-0 in the opening round to end the year at 9-4-1-3. And while Ludlowe finished 4-11-1-0 and didn't make the state playoffs, the Falcons can take solace in the fact that they defeated Warde 1-0 in overtime in the regular season.
The Ludlowe volleyball team reached the Class LL semifinals before falling to eventual CIAC champ, Darien three games to one. The Falcons finished 20-4 -- three of those losses coming at the hands of the Blue Wave.
Warde also made the Class LL field but lost in the opening round to Danbury. The Mustangs ended with a 10-10 record. Finally, the Ludlowe girls' soccer team made the Class LL tournament but lost in the opening round.