Greenwich girls soccer stuns Cheshire in final seconds of CIAC class LL opener

Greenwich High School senior captain Sarah Rodriguez works the ball past her Cheshire opponent during today's game at Cheshire High School's Alumni Field — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School senior captain Sarah Rodriguez works the ball past her Cheshire opponent during today’s game at Cheshire High School’s Alumni Field — Paul Silverfarb photo

It was a wild finish in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL girls soccer opener earlier today, but in the end, the Greenwich High School girls soccer team scored the stunning victory and moved on to the second round.

“They played extremely well,” Greenwich head coach Danny Simpson said. “The first 10 minutes we were a little nervous, but then they got into their rhythm a little bit and played our tough, defensive football. We created a few chances in the first half and a couple in the second half were unlucky. To go a goal down and score within 30 seconds was great. A lot of girls drop their heads in that moment, but we didn’t and that’s what made this game so special.”

After the No. 26 seeded GHS girls soccer team trailed No. 7 seeded Cheshire High School 1-0, they were able to regroup and tie the game 19 seconds later to force overtime.

And with only 17 seconds remaining in overtime, it appeared the Big Red was going to head into penalty kicks with the Rams, however GHS senior captain Sarah Rodriguez had other plans.

She got the ball in front of the net, dribbled past several CHS defenders and buried the shot in the bottom right corner of the net for the thrilling 2-1 victory.

“We had a pretty rough season and really haven’t had the results that we wanted, although we have been working really hard and have been trying,” GHS senior Liz Warner said. “Coming into this game, we knew that we had to give it our all. It’s win or go home and we didn’t want to go home.”

The game-winning goal started when sophomore Treloara Harrisson had a tremendous run down the field. On a throw in, Warner gained possession of the ball deep in the Cheshire High zone and passed to Rodriguez, who worked the ball through several CHS defenders and booted the ball past freshman goalie Zoe Riccio in the bottom right corner of the net for the 2-1 lead with 17 seconds left in overtime.

“Liz (Warner) took the ball to the line and I was making my run in late because I knew she was going to try and get across the goal,” Rodriguez said. “I saw the keeper going to the front post. The ball came to my feet and I knew it was going in.”

“It reminded me of the FCIAC goal that beat Warde,” Simpson said. “We came in late and finished it off. Sarah had a beautiful touch in the bottom corner. To have the two captains with the composure to combine for a goal at the end of the game is great. You want the game to fall on their shoulders and came through tremendously.”

After playing a scoreless first half, Big Red had several chances to break the tie early in the second. However, it was Cheshire that took the lead, as junior Katherine Conlon got the ball in front and beat GHS junior keeper Kylie Ginsburg for the 1-0 lead with 14:06 left.

Greenwich junior Alyssa Bernstein gets the ball away from Cheshire during today's game at Alumni Field. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich junior Alyssa Bernstein gets the ball away from Cheshire during today’s game at Alumni Field. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Although they were down, Big Red refused to give up. Only 19 seconds later, Greenwich was able to knot the game at 1-1. After controlling the play down the Cheshire High zone, Harrisson weaved her way through the CHS defense and booted a shot that found the back of the net.

“It’s easy to go down or get down on yourself,” Simpson said. “But to respond so quickly was great. Their defender was in such a good position on (Harrisson), but she wasn’t going to give up. Her finish across the keeper on the far corner was composed. She fought so hard to get the chance and was so calm to finish it. It was fantastic.”

For Greenwich in the second half, they had a plethora of chances early to grab the lead.

Less than eight minutes gone by in the half, Warner got the ball close to the net and booted the ball along the goalie line, however junior Jamie Kockenmeister was mere inches away from redirecting the ball in the net. With 31:45 to play, Warner had a shot in front of the net, but the ball hit the crossbar and bounced out of harm’s way.

A little over 10 minutes later, as nice pass towards the net went in the direction of Camilla Akerman, but the GHS sophomore was unable to catch up to the speeding ball in front of the net.

Despite all the pressure for Big Red, it was Cheshire that got on the board first.

“The best thing of our team this year is that we all care for each other and that we are a true team,” Rodriguez said. “Every single girl cares for each other and has the heart. While some teams might turn against each other or have their heads drop when a team scores, we haven’t done that once. We had the ability to overcome going a goal down. The pressure makes us stronger.”

Yet again, Greenwich had several quality scoring chances, this time in the second overtime. With 7:44 to play before penalty kicks, Harrisson had a 25-yard free kick opportunity, but her ball sailed wide of the net. A minute later, junior Alyssa Bernstein fired a shot on the left side of the Cheshire net from 10 yards out, but Riccio made the clutch save.

Big Red’s Ginsburg also made her fair share of solid saves to keep the scored knotted. With 5:55 to play, Cheshire’s Conlon fired a shot from 15 yards out, but Ginsburg got her hands on the ball. Two minutes later, Cheshire’s Hannah Bonitz had a free kick from 25 yards out, but was unable to find the back of the net.

“Cheshire was absolutely fantastic today,” Simpson said. “They are a great squad, are well-coached and had a fantastic season. They were a worthy adversary today. It was a tough game.”

Greenwich (7-6-4) finished the game with eight shots on goal, while Cheshire (13-4-0) netted seven. Ginsburg finished the game with seven saves in the victory, while her counterpart netted eight saves.

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