In a tight, tense, physical matchup in which both teams battled hard for possession and had their moments, only one goal was scored when neighborhood foes Sacred Heart Greenwich and Greenwich Academy renewed their longtime soccer rivalry.
And that one goal came off the right foot of Karina Sethi.
A senior tri-captain, Sethi scored in the seventh minute, lifting Sacred Heart to a well-earned 1-0 victory over visiting Greenwich Academy in an FAA matchup.
With the win, the Tigers improved their record to 2-2-1 overall and 2-1 in FAA action. The Gators, who played the Tigers to a 1-1 tie in 2021, are 5-3-1 overall and 5-1-1 in the FAA.
Greenwich Academy and Sacred Heart face each other every season, sometimes twice, as they have met in the FAA Tournament numerous times the past decade.
“It’s such a fun rivalry,” Sethi said of playing against GA. “It’s very competitive and we look forward to it all season long. We love playing GA and we go back and forth, so it’s really exciting to play them.”
The Tigers scored the game’s lone goal with 32:07 remaining in the first half. With open space in front of her Sacred Heart forward Madison Hart dribbled more than 20 yards down the right sideline, then crossed the ball to a Sethi, who while cutting toward the goal, got a good touch on the ball and directing a shot past Greenwich Academy sophomore goalie Este Tejpaul, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
“It was from a cross and that’s something we know we’re strong with, because we have so much speed on the outside and we can get those crosses in,” Sethi said of her go-ahead goal. “The cross was perfect from Madison Hart. It went right through the lane to me and I just tapped it in. She brought it all the way up the field and placed it perfectly.”
The Tigers were on the attack early on, with Hart, Sethi, sophomore forward Eva Wilkerson and sophomore midfielder Madison Hartnett leading the way. Tejpaul made a save off a SHG corner kick shortly after the matchup’s first goal. The Gators’ goalie wound up registering 10 saves for the game.
“We had good momentum from the beginning,” Sacred Heart coach Stuart Smith said. “The girls were excited for the team and they came out with a hard press and put them under a lot of pressure.”
Smith was impressed with the execution displayed on the Tigers’ goal in 2-on-1 goal in transition.
“We work on goals like that day in and day out,” Smith said. “The girls are well drilled in that. They know what to do in those situations. Madison did really well in setting up.”
Greenwich Academy tried to create more opportunities during the later portion of the opening half, after taking the initial blow SHG delivered with the quick, early goal. Senior co-captain/midfielder Ellie Burdick, junior midfielder Lola Tirabassi and senior Winnie Welch helped the Gators move the ball up the field and create chances.
“It was a very physical game, I think we stepped it up in the second half,” Burdick said. “We just have to be more on our toes a little bit more the first 10 minutes and get the momentum going in our favor.”
In the second half, Tejpaul was tested with several shots from Hart, while Burdick and Tirabassi helped GA apply second-half pressure.
Senior goalie Daphne Hartch made eight saves for Sacred Heart, which had eight corner kick opportunities and five direct kicks. Juniors Ashley O’Meara and Giada Coviello provided stellar defensive play for SHG, which received a spark in the midfield from junior Olivia Leahy and Wilkerson up front.
“I thought the first half was really good,” O’Meara said. “We did a nice job of pressing up top and we didn’t let that many balls get behind us, so overall, I thought it was a really good half.”
“The second half, they started pushing harder, so we had to figure out a way to combat that and I think we did a good job of that,” O’Meara continued.
GA coach Alistair Lonsdale was impressed with his squad’s performance, particularly in the second half.
“We changed formation,” Lonsdale said. “I knew we would come out well in the second half. “We did everything we needed to do tactically in the second half, but we need quality. We didn’t have that quality in front of goal – we tend to tighten up and we get tense in front of the goal. I thought the kids tried really hard and gave everything they could. We couldn’t do more than what we did.”
Greenwich Academy visits Taft School on Monday, then has a home game against Hotchkiss School on Saturday.
“I really like the team we have,” Burdick said. “There is a great culture going on, which is the most important thing. Once we have the bonds, it allows us to play to the best of our ability.”
Both teams had players suffer injuries. In the 18th minute, Greenwich Academy sophomore Sarah Huber was struck in the face during a collision and left the game. GA junior Molly Moore was helped off the field in the second half, with what appeared to be a leg injury and in the game’s final seconds, Madison Hart sustained a leg injury and needed to be carted off the field. We wish the best for the athletes as they recover.
Indeed, playing against each other is always one of the highlights of the team’s respective seasons.
“It’s so surreal, just having the sidelines for both teams cheering, it really motivates you,” O’Meara said. “Even the people that are against you. It fuels your anger and the people that are supporting you, it keeps you going. The people on the sidelines, they are some of our greatest supporters.”
Said Sethi: “The first half, we had so much energy. Our work ethic was really high and that’s something we’ve been talking about, controlling the controllables and our work ethic was really, really strong.”
Sacred Heart hosts FAA foe Greenwich Country Day School on Saturday.
“We’ve had some ups and downs in the first four weeks, but I feel like we’re starting to get some good momentum now and we are in good shape going into October,” Smith said.
Categories: Fall sports, Greenwich Academy, Sacred Heart Greenwich
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