Tuesday night was a great one for the FCIAC. In three sports, the No. 1 and 2 seeds advanced to the championship. Only the St. Joseph girls soccer team’s 3-0 win over Wilton was not decided by a goal.
The Cadets will face defending champion Ridgefield, a 2-1 victor over Staples, in a rematch of last year’s final.
In field hockey, Wilton needed overtime to dispatch Norwalk, 3-2, while Staples advanced with a 2-1 decision over Darien. This will be just the second time in nine years the Blue Wave will not be in the final.
In volleyball, the top four seeds all advanced, and that sets up a terrific semifinal doubleheader, with Greenwich facing Brien McMahon and Stamford going against Ridgefield. It also ensures a great title match.
Then there was the drama at Fairfield Ludlowe, the site of the boys soccer semifinals. In a game that will be remembered for years, Trumbull held on for a 3-2 decision over Danbury, while Greenwich sneaked past Fairfield Warde, 2-1.
If there was a year when it would have been expected for a lower seed to break through in one or more sports, it is ironic that regular-season form has held. I can’t remember a year with so many good races in all sports.
Here are some thoughts on the two soccer finals.
It seems to me…The morning after, it is hard to cast the Trumbull-Danbury final aside just yet, especially the dramatic ending. The Hatters’ Ricardo Rodriguez nearly delivered the goal heard around the FCIAC world with his brilliant drive just before the buzzer. Instead, Eagles goalkeeper Jonathan Campbell emerged as the hero by leaping and punching the shot over the crossbar. As I wrote yesterday, for those who follow boys soccer closely and were at the game last night — and that included a lot of coaches and officials — the play will live on for years as it is recalled in conversation.
It seems to me…The final play eclipsed the near-90 splendid minutes that preceded it. The Eagles play a wide open brand of soccer and will not — and did not — sit on a 3-1 lead. There was an exchange of three goals two minutes apart in the first half. The Hatters responded with much stronger play in the second half. Teams tend to play more conservatively as the stakes grow higher, but both Trumbull and Danbury went after it, producing one of the best Final Four games I can remember.
It seems to me…Campbell is comfortable in a situation that would bother many goalkeepers. Because of the Eagles’ push-it-forward style, he faces more quality shots than normal. Trumbull has allowed 13 goals this year, not a high total, though six have come in the last four games. Asked if it is frustrating sometimes allowing an extra goal or two, Campbell said, “It was, but as I learned throughout the season once we let in a goal that’s when we start playing our own game. We start a little slow but once we get going we’re on a roll.”
It seems to me…If it had been played on its own, the Greenwich-Fairfield Warde nightcap would probably be viewed with even greater regard than it was. Both teams played at a high level, but many were still talking about the game that preceded it. The Mustangs played well in defeat but the Cardinals are a strong side that did not panic after falling behind early.
It seems to me…If I have a set piece within 30 yards, I want the Cardinals’ Alejandro MacLean taking it. He has uncanny accuracy, as he proved with the game-winner against Warde.
It seems to me…Outside of the six teams in the tournament that have been eliminated, the Greenwich-Trumbull final is the one everybody else wants to see. Both remain without a loss and played to a scoreless tie during the regular season. You can watch the highlight video from the earlier meeting here. It is a pick-em game. It wouldn’t be surprising if we see co-champions, but I hope we get an outright winner decided on a spectacular finish. It would be a fitting end to the FCIAC season.
It seems to me…Soccer fans are getting a double treat because the girls final between St. Joseph and Ridgefield is equally compelling. The Cadets won the first meeting, 1-0. You can see highlights from that game here. St. Joseph was undefeated and the favorite going into last year’s final, but the Tigers played a perfect game, bottled up Cadets star Jenna Bike (who was also hobbled by injury) and got the decision.
It seems to me…The key to the girls final will come down to the Tigers getting more touches up top for Katie Jasminski and Alex Damron than they got in the meeting last month. The two Ridgefield attackers have great chemistry but hardly saw the ball the first time after the opening minutes. Ridgefield is a known entity: nine players who started in last year’s final will be back on the field Thursday. There are solid players all over the field with big-game experience. The Cadets were hit hard by graduation but at this point in the year the newcomers are tested, except for playing in a final. Everyone knows about striker Lindsey Savko and midfielder Jessica Mazo, but a rock solid defense will have to remain true to come away with the win.