Stamford beats Ludlowe for first FCIAC semifinal appearance in 15 years
FAIRFIELD -- It had been 15 years since a Stamford High boys soccer team reached the FCIAC semifinals. And the way Ludlowe was dominating the second half Friday, it seemed like a good bet the streak would hit 16.
"I was just waiting for the ball to go in for them," Stamford coach Mario Caminiti said. "And then it was like, `Are you kidding me?' "
After Ludlowe outshot the Black Knights 10-1 for nearly 38 minutes in the second half, Stamford's Luis Maradiaga's gained control off a free kick as Ludlowe goalie Fred Meagher seemed to slip. Maradiaga then tapped the ball into the left corner with 2:01 remaining to give the Knights a 1-0 victory and a berth in Monday's semifinals at Norwalk.
"I've been around long enough to know that when you get as many chances as we got and you don't finish, and then they get a chance ... you're in trouble," Ludlowe coach Kevin O'Hara said. "There was a little mix up in goal on the final play, but I can't blame it on that. We just couldn't finish."
The winning play started when sixth-seeded Stamford (10-4-3), which will meet No. 2 Ridgefield Monday, was awarded a free kick from 40 yards out. Instead of shooting directly at the goal, Mike Nunziante passed to the right to Matt Barletta. Barletta then booted the ball toward the goal where Meagher failed to gain control, leaving Maradiaga with a tap-in.
"(Barletta) saw space and took a shot and the goalie slipped and I saw my chance to tuck it in," Maradiaga said. "Before I went back into the game with about 10 minutes left, (Caminiti) said, `This is it; if you see a chance to put the ball in do it.' And I did."
It seemed as if Stamford was just trying to get to overtime. The winning goal marked the first time a Stamford player possessed the ball past the Ludlowe 30-yard line in the second half.
"It wasn't that we were (playing for overtime), it was more panicking and over-defending," Caminiti said. "But while Ludlowe had plenty of quality opportunities, we withstood the onslaught."
Stamford goalie Nicolas Romero made nine mostly difficult saves as Ludlowe outshot Stamford 15-6.
"I'm not going to tell you we deserved to win," Caminiti said. "It could've easily been 5-0 or 6-0. Their pressure in the second half was relentless."
Ludlowe (12-4-1), seeded third, defeated Stamford 3-0 earlier in the season. Matt Doyle and Eric Winjum had the best chances to score Friday, but were denied. The Falcons now hope they get a chance for redemption. While the official state tournament pairings won't be announced until next Friday, Ludlowe ended the regular season ranked fifth in Class LL and Stamford 12th, meaning that the two teams could meet in the second round.
"We had set our sights on Monday's semifinals," O'Hara said. "Now, at least we know we could play Stamford again."
Stamford 1, Ludlowe 0
STAMFORD 0 1--1
LUDLOWE 0 0--0
Records: Stamford 10-4-3, Ludlowe 12-4-1. Goals: S--Luis Maradiaga. Assists:S--Matt Barletta. Goalies: S--Nicolas Romero (9 saves); L--Fred Meagher (5). Shots: S--6; L--15.