Warde girls soccer edges New Canaan late to stay undefeated
Fairfield Warde junior Taylor Gabrenas scored with less than three minutes left to keep the Mustangs undefeated and hand New Canaan a stinging 1-0 loss Friday at Connor Field. The Rams (3-3-1) watched their three-game unbeaten streak snap in the face of an excellent effort from keeper Katie Donovan, who notched nine saves. Gabrenas bested the junior goalie with a straight-on line drive from 24 yards away that hit the bottom of the crossbar and dropped in.
"It was unreal. I didn't know if it was happening or not," Gabrenas said of the score. "With all the practicing we do with top-of-the-18 shots I knew I could score, I saw it and then (was) praying it would go in."
Warde's game-winning goal registered moments after New Canaan turned up its fourth empty corner kick of the half. The Mustangs (6-0-0) only mustered three such set pieces over the entire game, but churned out 13 shots, as the Rams sat back hoping to score off a counterattack.
In the 57th minute, New Canaan captain Kyla Persky sped down the right flank following a turnover and served up a sliding cross to Alex Gottlieb, who was alone inside the 18-yard box. Playing the ball off a bounce, Gottlieb fired too high, and the Rams failed to produce another high-quality chance again, despite many Persky pushes down the sideline.
"It wasn't like we weren't creating opportunities," New Canaan coach Kirk Bamford said. "We just couldn't put one in the back of the net. But hey that's the way soccer is sometimes, cruel game."
Consequently, Warde goalie Mollie Kerrigan furthered her shutout streak to six games to open the season.
"She's incredible," Gabrenas said. "She's plays a huge part in the back line."
In addition to Donovan's efforts, the Mustangs were nearly held scoreless themselves thanks to stellar individual play from the Rams, according to Warde coach Tom Cunningham.
"They played good 1-on-1 defense with some of our good goal scorers," Cunningham said. "They put pressure on us. They allowed us to play with the ball a little. But when we got into that final third, they really were able to shut down some of our forwards and our center-mids."
The conference foes traded scoring chances over the opening half, which concluded in a cluster of Warde shots shortly before the halftime horn. At the return of play, the Mustangs continued to pressure up the middle through junior Claire Pullen and senior Nell Carpenter. While their attempts on goal were eventually rebuffed, the accumulated pressure of Warde's efforts at last broke through when Gabrenas struck from a similar spot in the final moments.
"We were just trying to pressure their defense as hard as we could and win every 50-50 ball and get possession back as much as we could," Gabrenas said. "And it paid off."
Fairfield Warde 1, New Canaan 0
WARDE 0 1--1
NEW CANAAN 0 0--0