Fall sports

Greenwich High girls soccer team primed to build off successful 2021 season

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right, Ali Pennella, Isabella Gega and Caroline Lawrence are senior captains of the Greenwich High School girls soccer team, which hosts Brien McMahon in its season-opener on Friday.

Qualifying for the FCIAC and state tournaments were two of the Greenwich High School girls soccer team’s main goals in 2021 and it reached them, earning berths in both the FCIAC and CIAC Class LL tournaments for the first time since the 2015 season.

Now the Cardinals are ready to improve upon last season’s success.

“We want to take the but out of the conversation with us,” said Greenwich varsity girls soccer head coach Simon Rumbold. “It’s always been, ‘Greenwich played great soccer, but maybe didn’t capitalize on their opportunities’ – that’s what we want to do this year – capitalize on those opportunities we have, use the experience we have. We don’t just want to make those tournaments but be a team that can make some noise.”

The 2021 regular season saw Greenwich post a record of 7-5-3, a mark good enough to make it to the FCIAC and Class LL tourneys. Seeded eighth, the Cardinals lost to top-seeded St. Joseph last year’s FCIAC quarterfinals. St. Joseph proceeded to win the Class L state championship. In last fall’s Class LL Tournament, Greenwich dropped a 5-2 decision to Farmington on the road in overtime. The Cardinals held the lead on Farmington, which rallied for the win.

Greenwich’s girls soccer team is guided by head coach Simon Rumbold.

The Cardinals’ senior captains are last season’s starting goalie, one of its leading goal scorers/point producers and one of its top defenders from a season ago.

Isabella Gega is the Cards’ starting goalie, a role she impressively filled in 2021.

“I’m very excited about the season,” Gega said. “We have a good, strong, hardworking group of girls and we’re obviously, very optimistic.”

Rumbold appreciates the performances Gega has produced in goal in past seasons.

“She’s a leader on the team for sure,” Rumbold said. “She is someone the other girls on the team can look too for experience.”

Greenwich begins its 2022 campaign with a home game against Brien McMahon on Friday at 4:30 p.m. at Cardinal Stadium. The Cards started their season last fall with a win at Brien McMahon.

Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich’s 2022 captains are Ali Pennella, left, Isabella Gega and Caroline Lawrence.

“We’ve been working on chemistry, we have to know how each other plays, so we can get some goals,” said Caroline Lawrence, a returning defender, who earned All-FCIAC Second Team honors last season. “We really want to take it as far as we can go and try our best to win every game, so we can make it far.”

A captain, Lawrence, who will also serve as one of the captains of Greenwich’s ice hockey team in the winter, is looking forward to role as a leader of the squad.

“It feels really good, I’m really proud to be a captain of this great team,” Lawrence said. “We’ve been working a lot on chemistry and I’m really excited to be with these girls.”

Said Rumbold: “Caroline played midfield the first two years, then we put her in back. She has been extremely strong, she reads the game really well. She organizes the defense and she has a ton of experience and is a great kid.”

Greenwich High girls soccer coach Simon Rumbold addresses his team during a recent practice.

Ali Pennella, a midfielder/captain, is beginning her third season on the Cards. A versatile player, Pennella has helped power the Cardinals offensively the past two seasons. For the 2021 season she earned All-FCIAC First Team accolades.

“She has pushed the standard of the team up,” Rumbold said of Pennella. “She has pushed the standard of the team up,” Rumbold said of Pennella. “Ali’s a very creative player who wants to go play in college.”

Pennella is primed for another strong season as a center midfielder.

“I have a great group of girls around me, so hopefully, it’s very attacking,” Pennella said. “Our work ethic is one of our strengths. We have a great group of girls coming forward, a bunch of returners so we’re super excited to build off what we did last year.”

Ali Pennella will be relied upon to ignite Greenwich offensively.

Returning at the forward position are juniors Emma Abbazia and Julia Acosta, both of whom tallied a number of clutch goals for the Cards throughout the 2021 season.

“They scored the majority of our goals the past couple of years,” Rumbold said of Abbazia and Acosta. “They both came in really good shape and look hungry. They’re definitely capable of scoring goals.”

Sophomore Taylor Carrescia, who turned in a strong freshman season, returns at forward, as does senior Sammy Craven, one of the team’s top wing players. Juniors Adriana Jones and Brooke Wilkowski should also help pace GHS up front.

Emma Abbazia is one of the top forwards in the FCIAC.

Junior center back Meghan Ross is in her third season on the squad, where she will help guide the defensive unit, along with Lawrence.

“I’ll be surprised if there is anyone in the state that has played more minutes than her,” Rumbold said of Ross. “She has played every minute of every game pretty much for her whole career.”

Senior Emma Viviano returns to the backline, while sophomore defender Ellery Harte joins the team. Kaitlyn Fay and Haley Townsend, both of whom saw action last season, are among some of the squad’s 12 seniors.

“We are blessed that we have people who can play and step in and do their job,” Rumbold said. “We probably have more depth this year than in previous years. Our team will be capable of scoring goals. We’ll be easy on the eye, we can play some good soccer in terms of style.”

Among the 11 seniors that graduated from last season’s squad were captains Skyler Scavo and Sofia DeVito. Kelly Martyanov also graduated and is continuing her soccer career at Gardner-Webb University.

Indeed, the Cardinals are optimistic about how they can utilize their strengths to contend against their formidable FCIAC foes.

“We have really good passing,” Lawrence said. “We’ve been working through movement through the midfield and making sure we can get the ball to the players who can move it around, especially to the forwards, so we can get up and play.”

“Confidence is one of our strengths,” Pennella said. “Being confident in each other and ourselves will help us keep pushing against the harder teams.”

“I’m impressed with how communicative we are and we’re all heading toward the same goal,” Gega noted.

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