TRUMBULL — Suffice it to say that when the prefix “co” is placed before the word “champions” it tends to leave both teams with a rather blah feeling.
That, however, was not the case today when rivals St. Joseph and Trumbull battled for the FCIAC East Region girls soccer championship at St. Joseph.
After the teams fought to a 1-1 draw following 100 minutes, the title “co-champions” did not bother Trumbull at all as a feeling of joy spread throughout the team.
“To be co-champs is great,” Trumbull coach Rich Sutherland said. “If we had a normal FCIAC season I felt that St. Joseph was going to be the best team, so for us to be co-champs with them is great for the girls.”
“We are thrilled,” Trumbull’s Erin Melia added. It was Melia’s goal with 11:30 remaining in the second half that tied the game. “We haven’t been here before so this is awesome.”
Trumbull’s last girls soccer championship of any kind came in 2008.
For St. Joseph, which completely dominated for most of the contest, the co-championship was more of a disappointment.
Melia’s score was the Eagles’ first shot on goal in the game after nearly 69 minutes. At that time the Cadets had outshot the Eagles 10-0 and could have easily had a three- or four-goal lead. Overall, St. Joseph goalkeeper Grace Hickey finished with one save while Trumbull netminder Julia Marin, who made several terrific saves, stopped 13 shots.
Those numbers made the tie a little more difficult to stomach for the top-seeded Cadets (10-1-1).
“We were the better team today,” Cadets coach Jack Nogueira said. “We dominated the game and outshot them. But sometimes it doesn’t work out. It happens at every level. That’s soccer.”
One Cadet player who refused to be disappointed, however, was star forward Maddie Fried, who along with seven other seniors was playing her last high school game. The Villanova-bound Fried, one of the top players in the state, was proud of her team’s effort.
“If this was a normal season and I was coming back next year it would have been a lot more devastating,” said Fried, who helped set up Anastasia Kydes’ goal in the 25th minute of the first half. “But this was my last game on this field and we came out and dominated every part of the game. We played great so I can’t complain. It was a good way to go out. It’s a bittersweet feeling sure, but it’s more because these were the best four years of my life than it is about the tie.”
After the Cadets controlled the play for the first 25 minutes, they finally broke through against Marin. But there’s a good chance that most of the folks in attendance missed Kydes’ goal. Fried was battling Trumbull defenders down the left side and worked the ball into Kydes, who scored from about 15 yards out. But in making the play before Kydes scored, Fried was knocked over and fell and was motionless on the turf.
All eyes were probably on Fried to see if she was OK as Kydes scored. But Fried made it back to her feet.
“I didn’t see the goal,” said Fried, who had beautifully set up Andriana Cabral earlier in the half but Cabral’s shot hit the crossbar. “I got hit hard (before Kydes’ goal) and landed on my head, but I was fine.”
St. Joseph outshot Trumbull 7-0 in the first half but Marin kept the No. 2-seeded Eagles (6-4-2) close. The second half went much the same as the first as the Cadets kept the pressure on rather than fall back into a defensive mode.
“St. Joe’s is a very tough team to play against because they are relentless on offense,” Sutherland said.
But with just under 12 minutes remaining in regulation time the Eagles struck. Sophia Lowenberg raced down the right side and managed to make a perfect cross to the middle. Melia was positioned at the left side of the goal. The ball got through to Melia and she tapped it past a helpless Hickey for the equalizer and set off a huge celebration on the Trumbull side.
“It was a nice cross from Sophie that got through to me and I got it to the back post,” Melia said. “I had just got into the game and the way things were going for us, well, it was a big surprise.”
Yes, and even more so for St. Joseph, which continued to dominate the rest of the second half and each of the overtime periods. But with Marin starring in goal, the Eagles withstood the Cadets’ offensive relentlessness and earned a share of the championship.
“St. Joe’s had a lot of chances but we worked hard and sometimes you make your own luck,” Sutherland said. “I know (the Cadets) were upset at the end; it had to be tough for them.”
“We went 10-1-1 and being co-champions doesn’t erase that,” Nogueira added. “The bottom line is that with everything that has gone on this season, this game is a testament to both teams.”