Fall sports

Ali Pennella’s goal lifts Greenwich High girls soccer team past visiting Ridgefield

Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich’s Skylar Aysseh moves the ball along the sideline against Ridgefield on Oct. 7, 2022.

Following a week in which it dueled Darien to a draw and dropped a tough one-goal decision to New Canaan, the Greenwich High School girls soccer team got a close game to go in its favor on Friday and it couldn’t have come at a better time for coach Simon Rumbold’s squad.

The Cardinals who are in prime position to earn a berth into the CIAC Class LL state tournament, are also battling for an appearance in the eight-team FCIAC Tournament, so it’s important for them to gain victories and points in the conference standings.

Starting strong, Greenwich set the tone early in its game against visiting Ridgefield Friday at Cardinal Stadium, then used a first-half goal from senior tri-captain Ali Pennella to edge the Tigers, 1-0, in an FCIAC matchup.

Photo by David Fierro: Senior midfielder Ali Pennella scored on a penalty kick in Greenwich’s 1-0 win vs. Ridgefield.

The game-winning goal occurred with 5:26 remaining in the first half. The Cardinals were awarded a penalty kick, courtesy of junior forward Julia Acosta, who was fouled while on a breakaway in the box. Pennella, a midfielder, took the penalty kick and booted her shot past the outstretched arms of Ridgefield’s goalie, inside the left post, giving Greenwich a 1-0 lead.

“You just keep your calm and have to put the ball where the goalie isn’t in that situation,” Pennella said of her goal. “I just tried to do that and it worked out.”

Pennella credited Acosta for putting the Cards in position to take the lead.

“I’m really proud of our striker Julia for getting onto that ball and putting me in a situation where I could score on that penalty,” Pennella said. “It was a lot of hard work and it really showed.”

Photo by David Fierro: Greenwich’s Julia Acosta makes a strong run down the left sideline while being pursued by Anna Lee Touchard during an FCIAC soccer game on Oct. 7, 2022, in Greenwich.

Greenwich registered four shots in the first half, three of which were taken by Acosta. The home team also took three of their five corner kicks in the opening half.

“From the first whistle, the intensity was fantastic,” Rumbold said. “The big thing was, the intensity off the ball, but then the calmness on it. So we were able to settle it down and move the ball the way we know we can. I thought it was certainly the best half of soccer we played. We created chances and had a couple of corners.”

Greenwich girls soccer coach Simon Rumbold instructs the Cardinals during their matchup against Ridgefield.

With the win, Greenwich improved its record to 4-4-1. The Cardinals have 13 points in the FCIAC standings.

“They are a top three or four team, so for us to do that on our home field – we’re undefeated here so far – and we want to keep that going,” Rumbold said.

The loss was the first of the season for an impressive Ridgefield team, which sports a record of 6-1-2. The Tigers tied Staples and Fairfield Warde. Ridgefield was paced by senior Charlotte Kemp in yesterday’s matchup against the Cardinals.

“We knew going into it that they were a very aggressive team and we all matched that energy, which was very important for our win,” Pennella said. “I’m proud of the determination we showed.”

Photo by David Fierro: Senior Caroline Lawrence helped spark Greenwich to victory against Ridgefield.

Greenwich senior goalie/tri-captain Isabella Gega made three saves for the game, two of which came in the second half. She made a save off a shot from Tigers sophomore Zoe Desmairais in the 42nd minute and stopped a shot off a Ridgefield penalty corner with 11:10 left in the second half. Senior tri-captain Caroline Lawrence, junior Adriana Jones and sophomore Ellery Harte ignited the Cards’ effective defensive performance. The Cardinals have only yielded four goals in their last four games.

“I think our team worked together from the start, we had a great connection on the field,” Lawrence said. “One of our struggles was being a unified team on the field and I think we did that today. In the final third, we did what we needed to do.”

“Our final third and our forwards made a lot of connections up there and made a lot of chances for us to score,” Lawrence continued.

Greenwich midfielder Emma Abbazia, left, battles Ridgefield’s Zoe Desmairais for the ball.

Pennella, junior Brooke Wilkowski, senior Sammy Craven, junior Emma Abbazia and sophomore Taylor Carrescia helped power the Cardinals in the midfield, while Acosta and Aysseh did the job up front.

Greenwich hosts Bridgeport Central on Monday at 4:30 p.m., then Danbury visits Cardinal Stadium for a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday.

“We have Bridgeport Central, Danbury and St. Joseph and I think all of those are going to be good matches,” Lawrence said of the squad’s upcoming schedule. “We just have to show up and be ready. I’m excited for what’s to come.”

Greenwich posted a 1-0 win over Ridgefield at Cardinal Stadium on Oct. 7, 2022.
Greenwich’s Emma Abbazia, left and Ali Pennella, right, look to defend Ridgefield’s Ava Malagisi.

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