Greenwich High girls soccer hoping four times is a charm

Greenwich High School junior goalie Kylie Ginsberg makes a play on the ball during a game last year for the Cardinals. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School junior goalie Kylie Ginsberg makes a play on the ball during a game last year for the Cardinals. — John Ferris Robben photo

It’s very easy to feel a little spoiled when you’re on the Greenwich High School girls soccer team.

For the past three years, the Cardinals have been on top of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

Although Big Red is used to being the last team standing in the conference, that doesn’t mean that they take anything for granted.

“There’s only two trophies you can win and when you win one of them for three years in a row, it spoils you because you need to realize that it’s not always the norm,” GHS head coach Danny Simpson said. “We appreciate it but also understand that in order to get back to that point, we know what it takes. A lot of these girls know what it takes and it’s a good thing because the schools are getting better. St. Joe’s is phenomenal this year and Ridgefield, Wilton, Trumbull and Westhill will be really tough. It’s going to be a great challenge for the girls.”

Last year, Big Red continued its remarkable run through the FCIAC, beating Trumbull High School 1-0 in the semifinals. Caroline Markowitz, now a senior tri-captain, headed the ball in the back of the net with 4:20 to play in the first half to score the lone goal of the game.

The victory against the Eagles gave Greenwich, along with St. Joseph High School’s 3-1 win against Ridgefield in the other semifinal game, gave both teams the FCIAC co-championship.

A year earlier, Greenwich upended Fairfield Warde 1-0 for the conference title and Big Red started its FCIAC run in 2010 with a double-OT 1-0 victory over Westhill High School.

“I think there is definitely a lot of pressure on us,” senior tri-captain Elizabeth Warner said. “Everybody is expecting a lot from us this year. We lost a lot of players, but we got a lot talented young players and some veteran leadership. I am really excited about the potential this team has. We’ve been working on our defense and we are going to try and progress our attack.”

Simpson said that with FCIAC championships, a target is on Greenwich that keeps on getting bigger.

“I see a team with a big target on our back,” Simpson said. “When you three-peat the FCIAC title, people are going to want to beat you. They are going to play extra hard. It was really tough last year and if that wasn’t tough enough, it’s going to be even harder now. I see this being a really tough season but one that I think we are up for the challenge.”

In its quest for yet another FCIAC championship, Greenwich will be led by senior tri-captains Warner, Sarah Rodriguez and Markowitz.

“It feels really good to lead this team,” Markowitz said. “The past three years we’ve been FCIAC champions, so we have some big shoes to fill. We are definitely hoping the team could carry on the tradition of Greenwich soccer. I would also like to start our own legacy in the state tournament as well.”

Rodriguez said that it’s a huge honor to be a captain on the Lady Cardinals and knows she has some big shoes to fill.

“Over the years, we have developed a very strong program and I think when you come in to play Greenwich, people are ready for that game,” Rodriguez said. “We have a target on our back and we need to be conscious of that. I think that knowing we have that target on us and knowing how to react to that is a big strength for us.”

Simpson said that captains Rodriguez, Markowitz and Warner are three girls have worked really hard on their game and that they are solid leaders.

“They are going to be great for the girls to build from,” Simpson said. “I am looking for great things from them. The team is very fortunate to have captains that have been champions for three years and are such good leaders.”

The Cardinals will be bringing back Kylie Ginsberg for her second season as goaltender. In her first year as varsity starting goalie last season, Ginsberg was stellar in a trial-by-fire situation.

“It was tough for her because she was the only goaltender last year,” Simpson said. “When she got injured, we had to put a field player in the goal and Kylie felt more of a burden to step up and play tough. She was fantastic throughout the season last year and the girls recognized that. She had a great season.”

Defensively the Cardinals pride themselves on not conceding goals. Leading the way on defense will be Markowitz, sophomore Treloara Harrison, and senior Megan Bartholomew.

“The cohesiveness of the team is one of our strengths,” Markowitz said. “Together there isn’t one standout player like we have had in the past. I think we are a strong team across the board and we have a lot of younger girls that will make a big impact on the team.”

In addition, senior Alexa Hopper and junior Alyssa Bernstein will see some quality time at defense.

“We set our benchmark of a 16-game schedule where we will only allow 16 goals,” Simpson said. “We are going to keep it tight and play a very aggressive style of defense.”

When it comes to midfield, senior captains Rodriguez and Warner will lead the way. Also returning will be senior Vitoria Galbier, who is a two-year starter on the team. Another returner will be sophomore Emily Berzolla.

“I am really excited to be one of the captains here,” Warner said. “Obviously we have performed really well the past few years and there’s a standard here that we need to uphold. That’s going to be challenging, but it’s also going to be exciting to see how we progress.”

The forwards aren’t new to the playing on the Greenwich High soccer program, however they are new to starting roles on the varsity squad and Simpson believes that the attack needs to step up its game.

“We are going to be new in the front line and it might surprise a few people,” Simpson said. “But it’s going to be enjoyable to see how they contend. It’s time for them to step up and show me what they got. There’s always the talent at Greenwich High School, but it’s all about fine-tuning it.”

With an attack that doesn’t have the varsity experience as other GHS teams in the past, it’s more important than ever for Big Red’s defense to step up its game.

“It’s very solid to get everybody out there and to know that we’re tough to break down, we will be tough to beat,” Simpson said. “We want to be hard to beat this year.”

According to Simpson, one of the biggest strengths of the team is that the spine of the Cardinals has been to the championship game before.

“There’s an experience there,” Simpson said. “I can select eight to 10 players on the team and they have played in an FCIAC playoff game and state tournament game. There’s great experience on the team.”

However, the Cardinals would like to improve on its state tournament appearances. While Big Red has been on top of the FCIAC world for the past three years, the class LL tournament is a much different story.

As the No. 11 seed last season, Greenwich beat Simsbury 4-0, but lost to Newtown in the second round 2-0. A year earlier as the No. 9 seed, the Cardinals upended Manchester 3-1, but lost at Ridgefield 2-0 in the second round. In 2010, the second-seeded Cards had a first-round bye and lost to Hall in the second round 2-1.

“I think that every year we struggle with getting farther in the state tournament,” Rodriguez said. “We want to make sure we can go through the entire season and keep progressing. We want to enjoy the benefits of our hard work and I think that our cohesiveness will be a big part of that.”

Although the Lady Cardinals lost a slew of talented athletes to graduation, Simpson said that with the leadership that came back and talent on the roster, he’s expecting the same results as in the past.

“We want to get our first win and then get six wins, which will get us into states,” Simpson said. “We want to see if we could make FCIACs. We always have the same three objectives and come the end of October we will see if we met all three. That’s when the second season starts.”

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