Boys Soccer IHS earns last SWC playoff spot
DANBURY — Immaculate boys soccer coach Steve Carneiro gave his team the good news at the last possible moment, the conclusion after a team talk following the Mustangs’ 1-0 loss to Barlow Thursday night.
The Mustangs are headed back to the SWC playoffs after a year out.
The cheer out of the Immaculate huddle was in no relationship to the outcome, as Jack Warren’s early goal gave the Falcons all three points and lifted them up the standings as the regular season comes to a close.
“It’s awesome to make it,” said captain David Talerico. “It’s just more games with these guys, I love them; we’ve stuck to the same system and haven’t changed anything up. We’re just having fun.”
Immaculate (7-7-1) started the season 1-4 but claimed enough points against conference contenders — Thursday’s loss was just the second in seven games — to earn the last playoff spot. Immaculate tied with Weston before beating ND-Fairfield 5-0 to head into action with a two-point edge over the Wildcats, who lost to New Milford an hour earlier.
With his team trailing 1-0 at halftime Carniero told his team he needed to get all three points to make the tournament, which spurred on his team to fight back into the game.
“I knew we made it but I was all over them to get back in it,” Carniero said. “Thankfully New Milford was on our side today, they came through. For these boys being a Class S school, we play a lot of Class LL and L schools. Our goal typically is to make states and SWCs is a bonus.”
The Mustangs had an opportunity to tie the game with 13 minutes left, but a penalty shot was blazed over the bar. Barlow (9-3-1) created quality chances on the counter attack to potentially add to its narrow lead, but Connor Mitchell made several stops — including one in the final minutes— to keep his team alive.
“We just don’t have that eye of the tiger yet,” Barlow coach Paul Winstanley said. “Immaculate started creating chances and we almost gave something up. We created all of these chances but we can’t finish, that’s worrisome.”
A Wildcats win over New Milford would have put them in the postseason with the Mustangs loss, but a 4-1 win by the Green Wave not only snapped a six-game skid, but knocked Bethel out of contention.
Bethel coach Tony Fernandes hoped to make a drive to Immaculate — which started an hour later — to root on rival Barlow, but three early goals meant the hosts were playing catch up.
“That was my hope but it’s disappointing,” Fernandes said. “I don’t know if we’ve ever missed the SWC but it’s been a while if we have. The kids really didn’t play that bad. I thought we played all right; even in the first half we were controlling the game and in their end of the field more than the were in ours.”
Luke Chastain scored twice for the Green Wave while Sean Donahue and Nick Magnente each added a goal. New Milford (5-9) suffered a series of close losses to eliminate any chance of making the field of eight.
“Truthfully we’ve been snake bit,” New Milford coach Lou Pereira said. “We’ve had a lot of own goals and mistakes, we haven’t caught any breaks. I’m shocked at where we are, but our kids have never quit and that’s great to see.”
The Wildcats replaced 12 players from last year’s team that reached the Class L quarterfinals; 2018 turned into a rebuilding year as they qualified for states.
“We knew we had a lot of inexperienced players, not a lot of players with varsity experience,” Fernandes said. “The kids have hung tight, some games better than others. The result didn’t go our way today but the performance wasn’t terrible.”