Greenwich boys soccer advances to FCIAC finals with 5-2 victory over Wilton

On Monday night, the Greenwich High School boys soccer team was trailing 2-1 to Wilton High School in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference semifinal game and just weren’t fully clicking. In fact, Big Red was less than 20 minutes away from seeing their tournament run come to a screeching halt.

However, this group of Cardinals has come too far and worked too hard to just let their chance at a championship pass them by. Tying the game with 19:20 to play and then scoring three more goals in five-minute span, Greenwich went on to beat the Warriors 5-2.

“It feels awesome,” GHS senior Will Gittings said. “At the beginning of the year, this was our first goal, to make it one step further than last year. I give so much credit to this Wilton team for coming out and giving us easily our most competitive game of the year. A lot of people thought they had us beat with 20 minutes left, but then thank God we turned it up one higher gear and pulled away at the end.”

With the Warriors leading 2-1, Gittings found the back of the net off a corner kick from GHS senior captain Mateo Gowland with 19:20 left to play to knot the game at 2-2.

Shortly after the game-tying goal, Big Red exploded into the scoring column, as Gittings scored two more goals and sophomore Nicholas Bartels scored another, all within five minutes to ice the game and send Greenwich to the conference championship game.

“We have resiliency,” Greenwich High School head coach Kurt Putnam said. “We have belief and we fight. These boys want it back. That’s all they’ve been talking about for a year. They fell short on two separate attempts at playing in a finals, so for them this is unfinished business. They have already done better than last year because they won the Western Division, are still undefeated and are now going to a finals. To be honest, anything now is gravy. I would love for them to win at least something because after the season they had, I think they deserve something.”

With the victory, Greenwich advances to Wednesday night’s FCIAC championship game and will play Ridgefield High School at Norwalk High’s Sam Testa Field. Game time is slated for 7 p.m.

In order to get to the finals, Ridgefield crushed Stamford High School 5-1 in the other FCIAC semifinal game.

“That is going to be one hell of a finals,” Putnam said. “Ridgefield is a really good team. They are well coached; they are athletic and have some big boys. They have goals that can come from various players. If both teams go out there and play to their capabilities, it could be one heck of a finals. There could be lots of goals or it could be no goals. If one team doesn’t show up, the other team can hurt them bad.”

Throughout the first half, Greenwich seemed to dominate play. With 33:20 to play in the half, senior Patrick Santini had a header off a corner, but the ball sailed just wide of the net.

However, he got his revenge less than a minute later. On the attack, junior Paul Quiroga crossed the ball to Santini in front of the net, who booted the ball past Wilton goalie William DeSantis for the 1-0 lead.

While the Cardinals had a plethora of chances to net a goal, they were unable to settle down and fire off a quality shot. That came back to haunt Greenwich with 4:30 to play in the half.

Off a free kick, Wilton’s Ollie Quontock was roughly 30 yards out and unloaded a missile of a kick, the sailed over the GHS defense and beyond the arms of GHS goalie Santiago Irgoyen for the 1-1 tie.

The Warriors came out for the second half with the same patience it had in the first half and it paid off nine minutes in. With 30:49 showing on the clock, and off a GHS turnover deep in its zone, Wilton’s Jack Brandt gained possession and dished to Quontock, who fired a shot at point-blank range for the goal and 2-1 lead.

“They gave us one hell of a game,” Putnam said. “You can’t take anything away from them. At the beginning of the season we beat them 5-0 and that’s a vastly improved team. Clearly they had a game plan and they executed it really well.”

Although trailing, Greenwich didn’t panic and stepped it up a notch in the final 20 minutes, as Gittings netted the goal off a corner for the tie.

With 10:02 to play, Big Red got the lead back, as the duo of GHS senior Mateo Gowland and Gittings struck again. Off a perfectly placed free kick by Gowland that went from right and arched left, Gittings controlled the ball and blasted the shot in the back of the net for the lead.

Only four minutes later, the Cardinals extended its lead when Bartels went on the attack, got the ball past the Wilton defense and fired a shot at point-blank range for the goal.

“That’s not a sophomore’s goal. That’s a senior’s goal,” Putnam said. “That’s what I expected from someone like Pieter Zenner, to have the patience and composure to not just panic. That’s a fantastic confidence-building goal for Nick. He hasn’t scored in a couple of games and has been getting frustrated a bit, but that should boost his confidence to no end. It was a great goal.”

With the Greenwich fans still celebrating the goal from Bartels, GHS struck again, as Gitting completed his hat trick by tapping the ball through the Wilton goalie’s legs for the 5-2 advantage with 5:01 to play.

Greenwich finished the game with a 10-7 advantage in shots on goal. Irigoyen finished with three saves for Big Red, while his counterpart netted eight saves.

Although he didn’t find the back of the net against Wilton, Mateo Gowland still seemed to be involved in nearly every scoring chance. He picked up the assists on two of Big Red’s goals and on both had flawless passes to either Bartels or Gittings.

“He actually struggled in the game a little bit,” Putnam said. “He’s been under the weather and has been struggling with a back spasm. He was off of his game today, but that’s the capability that boy has. He can hit a ball absolutely perfect and that’s what he did. I told him that it wasn’t his best game, but it was a great final 20 minutes.”

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