Fall sports

Sacred Heart Greenwich soccer team advances to FAA Tournament semifinals against St. Luke’s School with a victory over visiting Hopkins in tournament’s quarterfinal-round

Photo by David Fierro: The Sacred Heart Greenwich soccer team huddles up and talks during its final regular season game recently against St. Luke’s School. The Tigers are currently in the FAA Tournament semifinals, where they will face St. Luke’s.

Sacred Heart Greenwich’s soccer team concluded its successful regular season with a victory against St. Luke’s on Nov. 4, now it will face its same rival with more at stake on Thursday.

The fourth-seeded Tigers earned a berth in the FAA Soccer Tournament semifinals with a 2-0 triumph over visiting Hopkins School, the No. 5 seed, in Tuesday’s quarterfinal-round.

The Tigers will visit top-seeded St. Luke’s in tomorrow’s 1:30 p.m. FAA Tournament semifinals in New Canaan. Coached by Stuart Smith, Sacred Heart enters the postseason matchup on a winning note, having emerged victorious in its last four games.

“We’re finding ways at the moment to win games,” Smith said. “We feel like we’re peaking at the right time.”

Photo by David Fierro: Victoria Hart, right, dribbles the ball during a recent game against St. Luke’s School.

In the Tigers’ 2-0 victory over fifth-seeded Hopkins in Tuesday’s FAA quarterfinals, goals from freshman forward Scarlett Pfistner and junior forward Madison Hart gave SHG a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.

“She received a pass from the right hand side from Madison Hart, then she got the angle from the post on the right side and drilled it,” Smith said of Pfistner’s goal. “It was a good goal from a freshman, who has had a good back end to the season.”

Pfistner’s goal came in the 19th minute, giving Sacred Heart a 1-0 lead on the Hilltoppers. Two minutes before halftime, Madison Hart increased the Tigers’ advantage to 2-0, scoring off a pass from senior forward Karina Sethi.

“That was a big goal,” Smith said. “It gave us a little bit of that breathing space. It’s a big difference going into halftime 2-0, rather than 1-up.”

Photo by David Fierro: Ava Sollenne of St. Luke’s, left, dribbles the ball while being pursued by Sacred Heart’s Dalia Si-Ahmed during a recent FAA game held at Sacred Heart Greenewich in Greenwich.

“They (Hopkins) caused us some problems in the second half the first 10 minutes,” Smith continued. “From there we didn’t look back, we got on the front foot the end of the second half. Our midfielders brought a ton of energy. Ariana Chin, Maddy Hartnett and Eva Wilkerson put in a lot of effort into tracking runners to get back.”

Sacred Heart ended the regular season with a record of 6-1-3 in the FAA to earn the No. 4 seed in the league tournament. They improved on that mark with Tuesday’s triumph against Hopkins. In its regular season final, SHG posted a 3-1 win over St. Luke’s, the team it will face tomorrow on the road in the FAA semifinals.

“We have worked super hard this season,” Sacred Heart junior defender Olivia Leahy said following the Tigers’ win over St. Luke’s last week. “This was definitely a game we were looking forward to, one that we had our sights set on. We wanted to close the season strong and have momentum going into the FAA Tournament.”

Sacred Heart’s Olivia Leahy had a goal in a recent regular season win against St. Luke’s.

Leahy’s unassisted goal in the 26th minute gave SHG a 1-0 advantage on the Storm.

“I was going through the right side and then dribbled through a couple of defenders just had a goal that went high, right through the goalie’s hands,” Leahy said of her goal. “It was a great feeling.”

Sethi made it 2-0 by scoring with 24:04 remaining in the second half.

“We’ve been working on a high press a lot and the goal from high press and help on the outside from the wings,” Sethi said. “I feel really confident in our team. We’ve been working really hard in working as a unit in getting our passes to each other. I feel really strong about our team and I think we’re going to go far.”

Karina Sethi has excelled as one of the captains of the Sacred Heart soccer team.

Junior Maggie Bacigalupo converted a penalty kick with just over two minutes remaining, putting the Tigers on top of St. Luke’s, 3-1. The Storm tallied at the 4:04 mark, cutting their deficit to 2-1.

“We’ve been able to score goals the last few games,” Smith said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with this season, scoring goals. The last few games we found the ability to put it away.”

Senior goalie Zara Black and senior forward Bettina Holden are captains, along with Sethi.

“I feel really fortunate to have been chosen as one of the captains and I’m happy I get to share the role with Karina and Bettina,” Black said. “I’m looking forward to leading them into our last week of the season.”

Said Holden: “This game set the tone for how we’re going to go in the playoffs. It was nice to see everyone play as a team, as a unit and it was nice to see everyone play to their strengths – with our speed, our passes and our physicality.”

Zara Black, left, and Bettina Holden are senior captains of the Sacred Heart soccer team.

St. Luke’s is the defending FAA Tournament champion, so Sacred Heart must be at its best during Thursday’s FAA Tournament semifinals.

“At the beginning of the season, we had some ups-and-downs, but as the season has progressed, we had some hard-fought games against the FAA teams and boarding schools and we got really good results as the season went on,” Sethi said. “In am confident in our team.”

Sacred Heart Greenwich’s soccer team in action against St. Luke’s recently.

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