Girls Soccer

Girls Soccer Preview: Staples, St. Joseph Open As Teams To Beat

Reese Sutter is one of Staples’ midfield leaders. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

FCIAC girls soccer is coming off one of its most competitive seasons ever. Consider just one point separated the top five teams in the standings. Just five points — less than two wins — were the difference between first and seventh place.

In the end, St. Joseph held off Staples to win the league title, then went on to win its third straight Class L crown. The Wreckers finished 0-2 in finals as Ridgefield held them off for its first state championship.

Then there was a feel-good story like Brien McMahon, which led by Peyton McNamara qualified for the FCIAC Tournament for the first time.

The most dangerous teams heading into Friday’s openers are the ones with the most players back. There is a pack of teams with the potential to break into the top eight this fall.

The Favorites

Staples. The Wreckers won the regular-season title via tiebreaker, advanced to both the league and state finals but came away empty handed. First came a 1-0 loss to St. Joseph for the FCIAC title after nearly equalizing in the closing seconds. They regrouped to reach the LL championship, but fell victim to Ridgefield, 2-1.

Staples has quality returning talent, with three all-league players, and an excellent chance to win a conference title since sharing it with Fairfield Warde in 2014.

The Wreckers are solid all over the field, with Reese Sutter and Autumn Smith overseeing an active midfield. Mia Gonzalez is the defensive anchor and Ashley Wright a dangerous scoring threat.

Staples gets a good test in Friday’s opener with Fairfield Warde. Unfortunately those looking forward to the showdown with St. Joseph will have to wait until the final match of the season, when the top seed might be at stake.

Maddie Fried had an outstanding freshman season for St. Joseph (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

St. Joseph. While many have anointed the Wreckers as the team to beat, the Cadets deserve equal billing on the marquee. Sure, they lost defensive anchor Tory Bike and goalkeeper Veronica O’Rourke, but there is talent young and old in the quest for a fourth straight state title and fifth in six years.

Center midfielder Jessica Mazo dictates the tempo of play and is the league’s most skilled player. Maddie Fried is coming off a sensational freshman season — she scored the deciding goals in the FCIAC and state finals.

Andriana Cabral complements Mazo at midfield and the Cadets have another freshman with a high ceiling in Sophia Lowenberg. The defense will be led by Hailey Vechiarelli.

The Contender

Ridgefield. After graduating eight starters who helped bring the school consecutive FCIAC titles and trips to the state final, the Tigers were supposed to take a dip last season. Instead, a combination of great chemistry and a relentless work ethic helped deliver the program’s first state title.

All-State defender Kathryn Barlow is a considerable loss, but many of the key players last season were underclassmen. Center back Claire Middlebrook, who delivered both goals in the Class LL win over Staples — her first on a brilliant set piece will be etched in CIAC lore — is one of the state’s top players. Caitlin Slaminko and Faith Arnold are two athletic and accomplished scorers.

The Tigers’ schedule should again allow them to get off to a quick start.

The Sleeper

Fairfield Warde. The Mustangs enjoyed a great regular season in which it finished tied in points with Staples and St. Joseph for first place.

Avery Oracheff is back to lead the midfield, while Clare Corcoran is a dangerous threat up top. The Mustangs should be strong defensively. How fast a number of first-year starters develop should dictate the level of success.

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Ridgefield’s Claire Middlebrook is one of the state’s top defenders. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

15 Players To Watch

Claudia Benz, Westhill
Andriana Cabral, St. Joseph
Corinne Dente, Westhill
Maddie Fried, St. Joseph
Mia Gonzalez, Staples
Lindsay Groves, Wilton
Jessica Mazo, St. Joseph
Peyton McNamara, Brien McMahon
Claire Middlebrook, Ridgefield
Avery Oracheff, Fairfield Warde
Chloe Ortolano, Brien McMahon
Kendall Patten, New Canaan
Caitlin Slaminko, Ridgefield
Autumn Smith, Staples
Reese Sutter, Staples

The Lineups

Fairfield Ludlowe: G Maddie Herron, D Maya Newton, D Bridget Paullman, D Bianca Leon, D Grace Hanrahan, M Emily Fishbach, M Kelsey Brown, M McKenna Forrest, M Kiersten Morrisoe, F Paige O’Connell, F Georgia Hoey.

Fairfield Warde: M Avery Oracheff, F Clare Corcoran, D Janey Boldrighini, D Caroline Aufiero, D Caroline Brown, D Claire Cherniske, M Avery Oracheff, G Clare Harper.

Greenwich: M Sophie Ruelle, D Sofia Zajec, M Jordan Moses, G Clay Garrett, Sophia Bastek, Katie Large.

Brien McMahon: G Kayla Cocchia, G Charlotte Hussey, D Sophia Tarasidis, D Sydney Molaver, D Jocelyn Lister, D Victoria Papadopoulos, D Caitlyn Hocker, M Chloe Ortolano, M Peyton McNamara, M KK Ortiz, F Viviana Luna, F Niamh Linehan, F Valentina Villa, F Mikaela Ortolano.

New Canaan: G Jordan Paterson, G Emma Gibbens, D Katelyn Sparks, D Caroline Schuh, D McKenna Harden, D Anna Zocollilo, D Katherine Lisecky, D Meghan Kloud, M Bridget Salmini, M Sophie Salmini, M Olivia Cosco, M Lizzie Kuchinski, M Izzy Miller, M Jackie Steele, M Kendall Patten, M Olivia Bognon, M Sophie Potter, M Riana Afshar, M Jade Lowe, M Kayla Beck, F Elizabeth St. George, F Dillyn Patten, F Emma Schuh, F Kayleigh Harden.

Norwalk: G Sabrina Bailon, D Stephany Escalante, D Sara Smeriglio, D Alysa Valencia, D Brianny Garcia, M Brenda Garcia, M Cammy Monaco, M Madyson Suda, F Ryan Camiglio, F Caroline Bonebrake, F Shayla Khan, F Amanda Lihv, F Emily Guzman.

Ridgefield: D Claire Middlebrook, F Caitlin Slaminko, F Faith Arnold, G Lauren Castle, M Megan Klosowski, M Tasha Riek, D/M Amelia Hynes, D Carolyn Donovan.

St. Joseph: M Jessica Mazo, F Maddie Fried, M Andriana Cabral, D Hailey Vechiarelli, D Helen Mahoney, F Nina Pizacarolla, D Laci Lewis, M Julia Decasare, M Sophia Lowenberg, D Caroline Sheehan, F Mary Lundregan, G Grace Hickey.

Stamford: G Adrianna DelTorto, D Dana Serricchio, D Molly Eldridge, D Ashley Arrubula, D Lia Chichester, D Megan McQuillan, M Fabiana Bueno, M Kaitlyn Filanowski, M Hannah Hodges, M Bailey Getlik, M Chanille Assevero, M Carly Diamond, F Brianna Gutierrez, F Caroline Archila, F Emma Mancini.

Staples: D Mia Gonzalez, D Ava Siminovic, M Reese Sutter, M Autumn Smith, M Catherine Sprouls, M Alex Sprouls, F Ashley Wright.

Trumbull: Meghan Lesko, Skylar Jorge, Dani Milovanov, Jess Esposito, Liz Foley, Maryna Barone, Avery Rice, Elxa Andrews, Simone Dewar, Abbygail Michel.

Westhill: G Niamh Keogh, G Molly Herkis, D Lily Gubernick, D Grace Hansen, D Sam Fischer, D Emma Sawch, M Sam Page, M Malina Lesicki, M Rachel Weiner, M Emma Ostriski, M Katelyn Benner, F Claudia Benz, F Corinne Dente, F Amy Orelana, F Emma Whaley, D Kat Medina.

Wilton: Lindsay Groves, Grace Rava.

(Teams missing did not reply to requests for information.)