Warde girls soccer scores first round playoff win over New Canaan
In sports, and high school sports in particular, no team is above the occasional "off night." In many of these cases, the favored team plays a little lethargic, doesn't get the breaks and ultimately falls to an inferior opponent.
Unfortunately for the No. 2 seeded New Canaan girls soccer team, its "off night" occurred at a very inopportune time: its opening round game of the FCIAC playoffs at home against No. 7 Fairfield Warde Wednesday night.
For Warde, the 1-0 upset landed it in Thursday's semifinals against No. 6 Wilton, which scored an upset win of its own by defeating No. 3 Westhill in penalty kicks on Wednesday. That game was completed too late for press time.
"It's big for us and it's big for the program, but one through eight, every team is a quality team. The girls came out hard and they played well," Warde coach Tom Cunningham said. "Our defense really stepped up. Our backs really communicated well and slowed down their very good offense. It was a whole team effort."
Warde's Cate Allen scored the lone goal with 15:47 remaining in the first half, and the Mustangs played a strong defensive game to keep the Rams scoreless for the full 80 minutes.
"There was a really open spot and I was trying to get over there, so I cut in and a (New Canaan) girl was coming at me, so I just shot it and it went in," Allen said. "We were really fired up because we lost in the last four seconds last time (a 2-1 loss against New Canaan) and that really motivated us to do better."
Warde (10-5-2) appeared to have the upper hand from the get go, spending a great deal of time possessing the ball on New Canaan's side of the field. After quality scoring opportunities by Emily Pullen and Keegan Thimons were denied by New Canaan goalie Holly Burwick, the Mustangs broke through on Allen's goal.
Allen cut inside, and blasted a high shot from 20 yards away over the head of a leaping Burwick to give her team a lead that would hold up over the final 55 minutes.
New Canaan's (12-3-2) play picked up noticeably in the second half, but the Rams were unable to solve Warde goalie Katie Brennen, who made four saves on the night.
Just a minute into the second half, New Canaan's Sarah Mannelly cut in for a short range shot only to have it smothered by a sprawling Brennen. Minutes later, the Rams had another opportunity on a corner kick by Anna Borea, but Brennen came out of net to swat the ball out of harm's way.