Greenwich soccer cliches CIAC class LL berth with 5-1 win over Cadets

Greenwich High's NIck Bartels goes hard to the net during Monday's game against St. Joseph. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High’s NIck Bartels goes hard to the net during Monday’s game against St. Joseph. — Avery Belicka photo

The Greenwich High School boys soccer team is living up to its motto “bringing it back” this season.

With Big Red’s 5-1 blitzing of St. Joseph High School Monday afternoon, the Cardinals will be making a return trip to the postseason, as they clinched a playoff spot in the upcoming Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference class LL tournament.

“It feels great,” senior Paul Quiroga said. “To get there as early as we did was not really a shock or a surprise, but at the beginning of the season we weren’t sure what our expectations were going to be. We are a young team that doesn’t have a lot of experience. We weren’t sure if the guys were going to gel so well. Once we started 3-0 this year, we knew we had something special here. We have a good core of players and it shows that we can go far.”

With the victory over the Cadets, Greenwich improved to 7-2 on the season. Last season it took Greenwich seven games to get to the postseason, as they started the season 6-0-1. With mostly all the starters from that team gone, and a plethora of inexperience at the varsity level this season, GHS head coach Kurt Putnam is thrilled with the way his team is looking.

Greenwich's Paul Quiroga looks to get the ball away from the St. Joe's defense during Monday's game. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich’s Paul Quiroga looks to get the ball away from the St. Joe’s defense during Monday’s game. — Avery Belicka photo

“This got us into the state tournament,” Putnam said. “It’s nice. After nine games that’s not too bad. The quickest you can get there is seven, so nine is good. That’s a pretty good performance compared to last year, in terms of getting there. I’m happy with that. We sat down at the beginning of the season and said that this might be a little bit of problem. We have a lot of young players on the team and not a lot of returning varsity experience. To get there as quickly as we have is a credit to the boys. They’ve done a nice job.”

In order to clinch a postseason spot, Greenwich had to battle a St. Joseph team that came into Monday’s game at Cardinal Stadium winning three of its last four games. In that span, the Cadets blanked both Ridgefield (1-0) and Fairfield Warde (4-0). In addition, St. Joseph blanked Stamford 3-0, a team that upended Greenwich 4-2 two weeks ago.

Despite the hot stretch for St. Joe’s, it was the Cardinals that came out of gates flying. In fact, Greenwich lit up the scoreboard only 18 seconds into the game. After controlling the opening kick, Greenwich stormed down the field, as senior Liam Tracey had possession and passed to junior Nico Ortiz on the right corner of the goalie. Ortiz then found junior Nick Bartels wide open in the middle of the field and he blasted the shot for the 1-0 lead.

“I was getting a lot of opportunities from my teammates,” Bartels said. “Nico had it on the sideline, so I saw that and checked my back. No one was on me and just saw the goalie, two guys and a lot of space. So I knew that I could turn. So I called for the ball, turned really quick and shot one in the back corner. It was awesome. Kurt told us that we need to come out with a lot of fire, no matter who our opponent is, and put the game away early. We did that today.”

That was the first of three goals Bartels scored on the day.

For St. Joseph head coach Steven Waizenegger, giving up a goal that early was devastating for his team.

“You give up a goal that early is tough,” Waizenegger said. “We talk about preparation, but we are dealing with kids that sometimes are not ready to play. If you’re not mentally ready to play, you can’t survive. You give up a early goal like that, it’s hard to recover. We were able to get a nice goal, but by that point it was 3-1.

Five minutes later, Big Red was on the attack again, as junior Andrew Ramirez got a foot on the ball off a corner kick, but his shot sailed high over the net.

The Greenwich High boys soccer team upended St. Joseph 5-1 Monday afternoon at Cardinal Stadium. — Avery Belicka photo

The Greenwich High boys soccer team upended St. Joseph 5-1 Monday afternoon at Cardinal Stadium. — Avery Belicka photo

With 28:01 to play, Greenwich struck again. Applying pressure to the St. Joe’s defense, Quiroga charged the net and fired a shot at Cadet’s net. Although the goalie originally made the save, he was unable to keep the rebound, as Bartels was there to get a foot on the ball and tap it in the left corner of the net for the 2-0 lead.

Although Greenwich had the quick 2-0 advantage, it appeared that the Cardinals relaxed for a bit.

“Overall it was another learning experience for us,” Quiroga said. “We played them on a bad day and came out with a quick 2-0 lead. We should have had the score 3-0 or 4-0, but instead we held back and went down to their level. We let them back into the game. It was a learning moment for us because when we play against those teams, we have to make sure we get the victory and move on to the next game.”

With 14:33 to play, sloppy defense by Greenwich gave the Cadets a free kick from around 25 yards out. Dante Alberti took the shot and fired it past the GHS defenders high and to the top left corner of the net to cut the deficit to 2-1.

“It was probably the quickest goal we’ve ever scored,” Putnam said. “It was a really nice start. We scored the second one quite quick as well. But then, to be honest, I wasn’t happy with the next 20 minutes. I thought we took our foot right off the gas. It was like we thought we could score at will, so we didn’t have to keep our foot on the accelerator. We took it off and we actually started letting them back in the game. We gave up a needless free kick and all of a sudden the game could change. That disappointed me.”

The Cardinals took Putnam’s disappointment and turned it around quickly to end the half. Greenwich scored twice in the final 10 minutes to take a 4-1 lead into halftime.

With 9:59 to play, Quiroga got the pass from Bartels and scored a beautiful goal. Bartels pushed the ball upfield and faked a shot. Instead he passed to Quiroga, who worked the ball close to the right corner of the goalie crease and blasted a shot in the middle of net for the 3-1 lead.

Only 56.1 seconds were on the clock when sophomore Bernando Franca got into the scoring frenzy. Bartels got in front of the net and uncorked a shot that the SJHS goalie made the glove save on. However he wasn’t able to control the rebound and the ball landed in front of Franca, who simply tapped it into the open net for the 4-1 lead.

“We put our heart out there right from the start,” Quiroga said. “Before the game, we were talking about not going in slowly. We didn’t know a lot about this team because we don’t play them a lot, so we went in there and played hard from the start. That showed when we scored a goal as quick as we did.”

Big Red added its fifth goal with 27:27 to play in the game. Sophomore Alejandro Maclean was to the right of the net and passed to Bartels, located in the middle of the goalie crease. Bartels one-timed the ball in midair and scored his third goal of the game.

“I’m really impressed because we still have three starters that are injured,” Bartels said. “We had five or six starters at one point that weren’t playing, but we really came together.”

Now that the goal of competing in the class LL tournament is in the rear view mirror, Big Red can focus on its goal of attempting to defend the team’s FCIAC championship

“I didn’t think that we weren’t going to make the state tournament, but it’s very nice to get there in nine games,” Bartels said. “That’s very impressive. Looking back at the beginning of the season, we were unsure. After a few games, we knew this is a team that could win it all. We want to now get ahead in the FCIAC tournament and get our repeat. I think we are capable of doing that.”

“At the beginning of the season, we were looking just to make the FCIAC tournament,” Quiroga said. “But with the group of guys that we have and the record that we have, I think we really want to push for a top four seed and get home field advantage. We want the first round of FCIACs to be here.”

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress