Warde beats Ludlowe 1-0, wins Swedish Cup
FAIRFIELD - When the time was right, after celebrating on the field and then, celebrating with their fans was over, the members of the Warde boys’ soccer team raced to the small, wooden stand where the Swedish Cup was sitting, picked it up and held it high over their heads in triumph.
It was a win 12 years in the making.
Since 2004 - a span of 13 games - the Swedish Cup has sat in the Ludlowe trophy case. But thanks to a timely goal from junior Anthony Zarlenga midway in the first half, the Mustangs ended that Falcons streak with a 1-0 win Tuesday night at Taft Field.
“It’s a monumental day for any Warde athlete ever to wear the varsity (soccer) uniform,” Warde coach Justin Ottavio said. “I can’t be more proud of what they accomplished. It’s eluded us for a long time, we’ve had some heart-wrenching losses and ties but it’s over now. It’s finally done.”
The cup, created by the Swedish American Club, was first presented to the winner of the Warde-Ludlowe game in 1961. And over the last 11 seasons, the Falcons have held the Cup.
“This is great for the team, great for the school,” Warde senior midfielder Jason Deck said. “I’m elated for everybody. It’s been a long time in the making. It’s definitely a team effort. I’m so happy, we all played our hearts out and gave everything we had.”
Warde took the lead in the 16th minute, when, after taking a cross from Jonathan Schuster in the box, Zarlenga - who was unmarked in front -- controlled the ball and fired a shot past Ludlowe goalkeeper Jack McGuire to put the Mustangs in front.
“It happens,” Zarlenga said. “If you can get away from your defender … and Johnny, a beautiful ball. He got me the ball and I had a shot and I’m thankful and lucky that I converted.”
“We came up with an idea of putting Zarlenga up top to put more pressure on (Ludlowe) and it worked out quite well for us,” Ottavio said.
The win pushed Warde’s record to 8-4-2 and locked down one of the eight FCIAC playoff spots.
“Again, I’m estatic, I’m proud, I’m happy to finally be on the other end after so many defeats and ties,” Ottavio said. “The teamwork these guys have shown, the non-quit attitude. It’s remarkable. I’m really proud of what they accomplished. In terms of gratitude, it’s like the best gift I could have all season.”
Ludlowe, who lost 18 seniors from last season’s FCIAC championship squad, fell to 9-5 but also clinched a playoff spot.
“Credit to them,” Falcons coach Kevin O’Hara said. “We’ve had a decent run here and for them to finally get it, congratulations to them. I’m extremely happy with my team. At the beginning of the year, no one would have given us this chance to be where we are. I was just hoping to qualify for the states but to qualify for the FCIAC’s, I never thought we’d get that far.”
And for one heart-stopping moment, it seemed like Ludlowe had the soccer gods on their side as the referee called for a free kick just outside the box with :3.3 seconds to play but the shot was blocked and the Warde players raced around the field in celebration.
“This means the world to me,” Zarlenga said. “I’ve been on this team for three years and I have good friends that play for Ludlowe and all I’ve heard from them is banter about the trophy. And to finally get the cup, that’s what it’s all about.”