NEW BRITAIN — The Greenwich boys soccer team didn’t leave Willow Brook Park’s Veterans Stadium with a championship trophy tonight.
The Cardinals didn’t leave with any regrets either.
Hall High School sophomore Conlan Wilson scored three goals, two of which came in a three minute, 15 second span of the second half, to lead the fifth-seeded Warriors to the CIAC Class LL championship with a 3-1 win over 14th-seeded Greenwich.
“For 65 minutes we gave them a hell of a game,” Cardinals coach Kurt Putnam said. “We played as well as we could against an incredibly good soccer team. We go away disappointed, but we don’t go away with any regrets. Regrets are not doing things we should have done. We couldn’t have done any more. At the end of the day, we came up against a side that was just incredibly good.”
It took 41 years for the Cardinals to get back to a state championship game, last making an appearance in 1978.
It took Hall just a brief stretch of the second half to spoil the party and snatch away any hope Greenwich had of winning its first title since 1961.
Wilson, who wasn’t high up on Putnam’s list of players he had to worry about, scored his second and third goals of the match to give Hall some breathing room.
“To be honest, I think he just found himself in the right places at the right time with some good finishes,” Putnam said. “Our last 15 minutes have been a little suspect this season. We start to wear about a bit, start to lose focus. That’s a fantastic team that just exposed us a bit in the end.”
Hall pressured the Cardinals early and often, but wasn’t able to grab a lead until Wilson scored in the 16th minute of the game off an assist from Drew Seguro.
Greenwich found the equalizer six minutes later as Ryan Smith sent a cross that was directed into the goal by Farid Ghaliya, tying the game at 1-1.
Battling the the team’s trademark heart, Greenwich went toe to toe with Hall— which had scored 19 goals in four state tournament games.
In the first 15 minutes of the second half, the Cardinals put constant pressure on Hall but came away empty.
“I think in terms of heart and desire, this team is going to be right at the top,” Putnam said. “I might have had teams that played soccer and had more offensive punch, but I’ve never had a team like this. The seniors just didn’t want to give back their shirts. They’ve kept us going all the way to the final game of the season.”
One of those seniors, goalkeeper Paddy Colligan, said his team’s legacy will be this unlikely run to the title game.
“It’s devastating to lose. Obviously we wanted to win,” said Colligan, who had nine saves. “I wanted to make sure getting to the final wasn’t going to be our biggest mark. I wanted to win so bad, but we did all we could do. We created something special in this tournament. We left our mark.”
Greenwich (14-5-2) lost in the FCIAC quarterfinals to Wilton, but pulled out four straight wins — three in one-goal fashion — to make it to the final.
Hall coach Zeke Seguro, who won his first championship after coaching for 25 years at the school, knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“Greenwich is a well-coached team with a lot of grit,” Seguro said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. They’re very tough defensively, they match up tight. I thought they were fantastic.”
The Warriors lost last year’s title game, 1-0, to Glastonbury, but more than a handful of key players returned, giving Hall more experience in such pressure situations.
“We wanted to come back and close the deal,” Seguro said. “We lacked experience last year. The moment was too big for us. What I preached this year was play the game, not the occasion. I thought we did a nice job of that.”
Neither team left with any regrets.
It was Hall, however, that left with the championship trophy.