Fairfield Prep, Oricoli edge Shelton
Fairfield Prep's Jack Oricoli first stunned his opponent with an immediate equalizer. Then, when the sophomore midfielder had a prime opportunity to bury his opponent, he did that as well.
Oricoli's header in the 53rd minute capped a two-goal match and propelled the Jesuits to a 2-1 defeat of Shelton on Monday at Finn Stadium in Shelton.
"We had been struggling with scoring all year. I think we turned the corner tonight," Prep coach Ryan Lyddy said. "I think we're peaking at the right time."
The win snapped a three-match winless streak for the Jesuits (8-5-3), who regrouped after a team meeting with the postseason approaching.
Oricoli snapped a 1-1 tie with 27:05 remaining when he raced down the left side and headed in a cross from midfielder Mike Infante.
"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," said Oricoli, who matched his goal total for the season on Monday. "We generated passes throughout the middle."
Shelton generated some passes, too, it just didn't finish them. It picked up the pressure in what coach Joe D'Auria calls the "red zone" late in the match, but the Jesuits ultimately allowed only two second-half shots.
"In the red zone, every game this season we've outshot our opponents," D'Auria said. "We have chances, we just can't finish."
The Gaels (8-4-3) polished off one of their first quality chances in the opening half when senior forward Matthew Manzo pocketed a ball inside the far post. Prep goalkeeper Mike Meszaros stymied plenty of close-range shots following that.
The Gaels' lead didn't last long, though.
Only 12 seconds later, Oricoli collected a long ball from defender Austin Sims 20 yards from the opponent's goal. With a defender racing alongside him and Shelton goalkeeper Chris Carew approaching, Oricoli flicked the ball up on one bounce and in.
"I just tried to put it over (the goalkeeper)," Oricoli said. "I didn't mean for it to go that high."
"We got the goal, we were playing very well, then all of a sudden we just let our guard down," D'Auria added. "They came right down and scored. That's been our M.O. all season long."
The Jesuits -- a two-time defending SCC champion and Class LL state runner-up -- will now await their likely draw in the conference tournament.
Despite its recent struggles, Lyddy believes his young team is starting to believe in itself. The Jesuits have close to an entirely new roster due to graduation losses and departures to the U.S. Developmental Academy.
"I think we found what a team is," Lyddy said. "We molded tonight into a team, which we've been trying to do all year."