Greenwich boys soccer stunned by Glastonbury 2-1 in class LL semis

Greenwich High School senior Ryan Flipin looks to get the ball past the Amity Regional goalie during the class LL quarterfinal game at Cardinal Stadium. Earlier tonight, Big Red fell to Glastonbury in the class LL semifinals, 2-1.  — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School senior Ryan Flipin looks to get the ball past the Amity Regional goalie during the class LL quarterfinal game at Cardinal Stadium. Earlier tonight, Big Red fell to Glastonbury in the class LL semifinals, 2-1. — John Ferris Robben photo

The top-seeded Greenwich High School boys soccer team was less than 10 minutes away from competing in Saturday’s CIAC class LL championship game. However, No. 4 seeded Glastonbury High School had something to say about that.

Scoring two goals in the final 7:50 of the semifinal game, the Tomahawks shocked Big Red and came away with the thrilling 2-1 victory over the previously unbeaten Cardinals.

“I am so proud of the boys and they had a terrific season,” Greenwich High head coach Kurt Putnam said. “We went so many games unbeaten and won an FCIAC championship, but we fell at the same hurdle as last year. I was thinking we could have gone all the way and won it, but it wasn’t a good performance. We got out-worked and had our game taken away from us. Our game is a pressing game and we got out-pressed. We didn’t have enough players that showed up today. You have to give it to Glastonbury. They have some dangerous players.”

For Big Red, senior Will Gittings netted the team’s lone goal off a penalty kick midway through the first half. The Tomahawks found the game-tying goal off a free kick from just outside the goalie box with senior Evan Grenus netting the goal. The go-ahead tally came off the foot of sophomore Nicholas Kapelewski with less than three minutes to play and stunned Big Red.

“We thought we played a pretty good first half,” Glastonbury head coach Mark Landers said. “For us to coming down here and facing them with the record and great team they have, I think the first half we started to believe that we could play with these guys. It gave us more power to keep going.”

With the victory, Glastonbury advances to the CIAC class LL championship game and will play Ridgefield High School on Saturday.

In the first half, both teams had solid chances at the back of the net. With 33:00 left in the first half, senior Hunter Hassett got a good look at the net with GHS senior goalie Santiago Irigoyen out of position, but the Greenwich defense stepped up and kicked the ball out of harm’s way. With 21:40, Grenus fired a shot off a rebound, but Irigoyen made the glove save.

Despite the early chance for Glastonbury, Greenwich struck first with 20:30 to play in the half. On the attack, Big Red was charging the net and a Glastonbury defender tackled the Big Red attacker in the goalie box, resulting in a penalty kick.

Up stepped Gittings, who darted towards the ball on the penalty kick, slowed down a bit in an attempt to confuse the Glastonbury goalie and blasted a hard shot to the left corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.

Before the first half ended, the Cardinals had a few chances to extend the lead.

Senior Jon Palmer was 15 yards away from the net and fired a high shot that the Glastonbury goalie made the leaping save on. Both Palmer and fellow senior Mateo Gowland each had looks at the net with 4:00 to play, but the ball didn’t find the way to the back of the net.

Less than a minute later, Glastonbury’s Hassett had an open look at the Cards’ net, but his shot from point-blank range sailed just wide. With time running out in the first half, Glastonbury had a corner kick and the ball was loose in front of Irigoyen. But the defense of Palmer, senior Paul Quiroga, senior Ryan Flipin, senior Sebastian Hickman and senior Patrick Santini helped make sure Irigoyen wasn’t put in danger.

Although playing with the lead throughout the second half, Big Red was being pressured constantly by the Glastonbury midfield, which was forcing the ball deep in the Greenwich High defensive zone. However, Greenwich had a golden opportunity to grab the 2-0 lead with 20:54 to play in the game.

Charging towards the net from about 25 yards out, senior Julio Arnao uncorked a shot from the right side of the net that curved the entire length of the goalie net, but it hit the far post and bounced out of harm’s way.

“If that goes in, they are really chasing the game now and that’s the margins you have in this level of play,” Putnam said. “I knew that we were going to need a second or third goal. They are a really good side and one goal is really tough to hold on to. I don’t know really know how it fell apart in the end.”

With 7:36 to play, the GHS goalie went to make the glove save on a shot, but made the save just outside the box on the right side of the net, resulting in a free kick. On the ensuing free kick, Grenus unloaded a shot that traveled to the left of the Greenwich wall of defenders and found the bottom left corner of the net to tie the game at 1-1.

Glastonbury kept the pressure on and it paid off with less than three minutes to play. After Grenus raced through the Big Red defense, he dished the ball to teammate Kapelewski, who tapped the ball in the opposite side of the net past Irigoyen for the 2-1 back-breaking lead.

“I am just so proud of them,” Landers said. “We got a great group of kids and a great soccer family. Any ball in the air we knew we were going to have to challenge for and try and win. We committed ourselves to do that.”

Putnam said that the difference in the game was that Glastonbury stripped Big Red of the way they are used to playing.

“We are used to winning so many first and second ball and getting the ball down to play it, but we were given so little time,” Putnam said. “Even when we did win the ball and get it down to knock it around, credit to them because they wanted it more. We didn’t find enough ways to get second chances.”

With the loss, Greenwich fell to 19-1-2 on the season and missed the class LL championship game for the second consecutive season.

“I have had the seniors here since 11 years of age and it would have been nice to get to a state cup final in high school as well we did for Club,” Putnam said. “That’s why they are so upset. For some of them, they might not play after this. I don’t know if many are going to play in college. This was it. This was their final game and to have it snatched two minutes from the end is tough.”

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