WILTON — Though he was playing for a club team a year ago, Ahrav Soi made a number of visits to watch his classmates on the Wilton boys soccer team. He saw a program that failed to make the postseason in 2018 develop a winning attitude, making the sizable leap all the way to runner-up in the final of the Class L state tournament.
Soi is now playing this season for the Warriors, making an impact as a center back and contributing to a group that has grown accustomed to getting positive results in close games.
Case in point: today’s senior night home game against Danbury. In a competitive contest in which the Hatters had stretches getting the better of the play, Wilton had two strong finishes and held on after giving up a late goal for a 2-1 victory.
“They need to feel those moments when they are going through these grueling matches and being able to pick out quick wins like these,” Wilton coach Edwin Carvajal said. “It’s a good feeling knowing these guys will dig in, even for those dirty wins. You really see no team budging and all it takes is one mistake to define a win. You can really see it from this group. They are committing their bodies and doing it for their teammates.”
The Warriors improved to 4-0-1 in what is by far the most difficult of the FCIAC’s three regions being used this fall due to the pandemic. They were tested tonight by the Hatters, who are skilled and were able to possess the ball. A team that has struggled offensively in recent seasons but flourished behind an unyielding defense, Danbury (2-2-2) struck in the 74th minute and had several close calls to try and come away with a point.
“It’s really tough when you come away with a loss when you think you’ve actually played pretty well,” Danbury coach Antony Howard said. “That’s what everyone knows about us. I think everyone that plays against us says they’re a good team yet they come away with the win. It’s frustrating but I am happy with the way we played. We played some nice stuff. We knocked the ball around.”
Wilton took an early lead when the Hatters were too complacent clearing the ball out of their end. Jake Lash won a free ball and played it to Owen Steckel, who converted the opportunity for a 1-0 advantage.
Danbury, led by Yeremi Danny Garcia in the midfield, took a number of attempts at creating chances, often turned away by a Wilton defense led by Soi and Zac Abud.
“Last year I watched as many games as I could,” Soi said. “I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to come play for my school and I’m really glad I was able to make it happen and contribute to the team and make a difference. Unfortunately we didn’t get the clean sheet but we got the win.”
The goalkeepers at each end were called on to make a number of tough saves.
One of them, in the 50th minute, was the start of what turned out to be Wilton’s decisive goal. Danbury’s Matt Silva made a nice stop on a hard shot by Nathan Bennett, but Owen Steckel had a step on a defender and was able to bang in the rebound.
Danbury took advantage of a rare defensive lapse and got within a goal on a well-placed shot to the short side by Cris Carrasco.
But the Hatters were unable to equalize.
“They were defensively very good, the center backs very good, so we knew we’d have to be clever and technical,” Howard said. We didn’t take a few opportunities and we gave them a couple of easier opportunities than they gave us. That’s high school soccer.”
The teams meet again on Monday as the Warriors make their way toward the top seed and a first-round bye in the regional tournament.
“It hurts that we gave up a late goal and gave them a little life at the end but at the end the seniors got their win so that’s a good feeling,” Carvajal said. “It’s nice to know that these guys compete, especially against the top teams like a Danbury or a Norwalk. It’s great to see them really digging in deep.”