The CIAC Class LL Boys Soccer Tournament final between Greenwich and Hall was an instant classic.
And this class confrontation saw the Cardinals make school history.
The final chapter in the Cardinals’ storybook run in the Class LL Tournament could be titled, ‘Making History.’
Seeded 16th, Greenwich concluded its 2022 season by accomplishing what no other team in the program’s history has done since 1961 – win a state title.
Greenwich won the CIAC Class LL Tournament title with a dramatic 3-2 victory over second-seed Hall in a back-and-forth game that went to penalty kicks before a big bipartisan crowd at Trinity Health Stadium under the lights on Saturday night.
The Cardinals, who finished their memorable season with a record of 15-6-2, was victorious in the penalty shootout, 4-3, the fourth time in the Class LL Tournament they won in penalty kicks.
“This is an incredible group of kids,” Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam said. “Our team had an up-and-down regular season, then we didn’t play our best game against Trumbull in the FCIAC semifinals. But the guys bought into the system, we made some changes and we really picked up our level of play.”
As for Greenwich’s eye-opening success rate on penalty kicks?
“I don’t know,” Putnam chuckled. “I have no idea, we’ve just done a great job with our penalty kicks.”
Junior forward Maximo Ferrario was named the MVP of the championship game for Greenwich. Ferrario registered two goals, then came up clutch in the penalty shootout, scoring on his penalty kick.
The game wouldn’t have gone into overtime had it not been for Ferrario’s two-goal performance against the Titans, who suffered their lone loss of the season.
“Winning the championship feels amazing,” Ferrario said. “I think what turned our season around was losing to Trumbull in the FCIAC semifinals. After that loss in the semifinals, we were motivated to come back and compete in the state tournament. We played so well the entire tournament.”
Indeed, following a 5-1 setback to Trumbull in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals, Greenwich regrouped made several adjustments and proceeded to play their best soccer of the season when it counted most, knocking off higher-seeded squads along the way.
Greenwich began the Class LL Tournament by beating defending state champion Farmington, 2-1, in a game decided by penalty kicks, in the opening round. The Cards then topped top-seeded Trumbull, 1-0, in the Round of 16, in a matchup that went to a penalty shootout. The quarterfinals saw GHS edge ninth-seeded Newington, 1-0 and in the semifinals, Putnam’s squad got past No. 13 Fairfield Prep in penalty kicks.
“It’s crazy, no many people thought we could win the state championship, but we did what we had to do,” said Luzuriaga, the Cardinals’ leading scorer and a captain. “As soon as the playoffs started, we took on a different ego, a different mentality and we were really effective each game in the tournament.”
The penalty shootout commenced with Lucas Almeida scoring, then GHS junior Javier Peralta converted his kick, evening the shootout at 1-1. Senior Samuel Sandler made his penalty kick and senior Charlie Fiore gave Greenwich a penalty kick goal, evening it up at 2-2. Hall missed its next penalty kick and Cardinals senior goalie Nico Figueroa made a nifty diving save on the Titans’ fourth kick. Meanwhile, Ferrario converted his kick, making it 3-2 in the shootout. After Hall’s Aaron Sandler knotted it at 3-3 on his squad’s final kick, Luzuriaga gave Greenwich the win by scoring on his kick. The celebration then began for the Cardinals and their many fans, as they stormed the field.
“We would have preferred to have won the game in regulation time, but we’ve been successful in these games that have gone to penalty kicks,” Figueroa said. “We’ve become used to that situation.”
Hall took a 1-0 lead with 28:42 remaining in the first half on a goal from senior Jack DeLoreto, who converted a header from deep in the box, after a shot deflected off the body of Figueroa. The Titans took a 1-0 advantage into halftime, but Greenwich quickly responded in the second half, with Ferrario drilling a shot past Fairchild inside the right post from five yards out making it 1-1 in the 45th minute.
With 26:30 left in the second half, Ferrario gave Greenwich a 2-1 advantage, scoring off a pass from Matt Maloney. Ferrario received the ball at the top of the box and with one Hall defender on each side of him directed a shot with his right foot past Hall senior goalie Tyler Fairchild inside the right post. With that goal, Hall was put in an unfamiliar situation – they’ve led in the majority of its games this season.
Hall knotted the score at 2-2 when Samuel Sandler tallied with 17:15 to go in the second half. Both teams had several free kicks and a pair of corner kick opportunities during the intense 20-minute overtime session. The Cardinals’ defensive effort was paced by senior captain Nick Carvalho, senior captain Gordy Cartwright, who was moved to defense, after junior Andre Meier was banged up a bit in the first half, junior Gerardo Guerra and sophomore Pietro Carvalho.
The Carvalho’s made several well-timed tackles, while Guerra and Cartwright cleared the ball out of harm’s way a number of times.
“It’s been 61 years since Greenwich has won a state soccer title, so this feels so good,” said senior Nick Carvalho, who helped anchor the defensive play, along with Gordy Cartwright, Gerardo Guerra and Pietro Carvalho. “We went into the tournament with a different mentality and put in 100 percent effort every day in practice and in each game. This is the perfect way for me to end my senior season on the team.”
Said senior captain Jamie Smith, who helped anchor Greenwich’s stellar play in the midfield Saturday night and throughout the championship: “Hall is a very talented team, they have a phenomenal program and have a great coaching staff, so we were very excited to play in this championship game and we played so well. To be a No. 16 seed and win the state title shows how much character our team has.”
“I’m really proud of our team, this is the best feeling in the world,” said Cartwright, who like his fellow seniors, concluded his Cardinals career with a state title.