Defense wins as Greenwich High girls soccer ties Mustangs

The Greenwich High School girls soccer team has built up quite the rivalry with Fairfield Warde High School.

For the past several years, Big Red and the Mustangs would battle each other tough during the regular season. The two teams have played each other in the past three Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournaments. In fact, both teams met up in last year’s FCIAC title game, with Greenwich picking up the 1-0 victory in a defensive struggle and earning its second-consecutive FCIAC crown.

So it was only fitting that on Monday when they met up yet again, it would be another epic battle. Both teams have several quality chances at finding the back of the net, but defense and goaltending was the name of the game as the contest ended in a scoreless tie.

“I thought this was a typical FCIAC contest,” Greenwich head coach Danny Simpson said. “There were two big schools playing against each other and neither team wanted to budge. It was a very physical game and we expected that coming in here. These types of games are usually decided by a goal or end in a tie. That Fairfield team is always up to play and that’s why they were a state champion a couple of years ago. Every time you play Warde, you know you’re in for one of the toughest battles in the league.”

While midfield play was dominating the early part of the game, Greenwich had a chance with 23:33 to play in the first half, as junior Elizabeth Warner got possession of the ball from five feet out, but her shot sailed just over the net. Two minutes later it was Warde’s turn at attempting to score, as they were on a corner opportunity. However, Greenwich senior Stephanie Gittings was there to get a foot on the bouncing ball in front of the net and kick it out of harm’s way.

Less than a minute later, it was Greenwich’s turn at a corner kick, as senior captain Emma Christie booted the ball towards net and Warner directed it at goal. However the ball sailed wide.

“We were definitely happy with the result today, especially after our New Canaan game,” Christie said. “We had a couple of easy games since New Canaan, but we knew we had to come out hard today and that’s exactly what we did. Of course we wanted to win, but I thought we played well. Our defense is really strong because we have a lot of returners, but our newcomers really stepped it up and put pressure on Warde’s defense.”

Greenwich’s best chance at breaking open the scoring happened with 9:38 to play in the first half, as senior Milli Haimerl gained control of the ball, beat her defensive opponent and had a good look at the net from point-blank range, however the FWHS goalie made the save on the low shot.

With 23:53 to play in the second half, Big Red was close again at taking the lead, as senior captain Emily Johnson had a free kick from 25 yards out, but her shot just went above the crossbar.

From there, the defense went to work, as sophomore goalie Kylie Ginsburg made some crucial saves down the stretch on both corner and free kicks, and the GHS defense, led by senior captain Sarah Mischanti buckled down.

“We definitely proved ourselves and held our own,” Mischanti said. “We just came off three easier games and then came into this and stepped it up. This game was a lot faster than we expected it to be, but once we got our footing, we kept it up. In the second half, we were in their end a lot and Kylie (Ginsburg) made some incredible saves when she had to. Our defense was strong and our midfield won everything in the middle. Our forwards had some great shots at net.”

With the tie, Greenwich improved to 3-1-1 on the season, while Warde improved to 4-0-1 overall.

“I think we are doing great right now and I think we proved ourselves and stepped up,” Mischanti said. “We have 11 new girls on varsity and they really came up. We’ve been pushing ourselves in practice and it’s been showing. I think we are going to have a great season.”

Although Greenwich fell to New Canaan in the season opener 3-1, the Cards haven’t let up a goal since. They have been unstoppable since the opener, beating Trinity Catholic (6-0), Brien McMahon (5-0) and Bridgeport Central (8-0).

However, the road gets tougher. Today at 4, Greenwich returns home for a contest against Fairfield Ludlowe High School and Saturday will host St. Joseph High at 11 a.m. The Falcons currently sit at 3-1-1 overall, while the Cadets are a solid 3-0-1 overall.

“We let in some early goals against New Canaan, so we wanted to correct that,” Simpson said. “We then had some comfortable wins and today’s game definitely tested us. This stretch with Warde, Ludlowe and St. Joe’s is going to test us to see us what we are made of. I thought the girls came through defensively very well and were very organized.”

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