Sacred Heart edges FAA soccer rival Greenwich Academy
GREENWICH — Sacred Heart Greenwich played catch-up in four of its first five soccer games, but Ellen Pucel gave the Tigers exactly what they needed early in Wednesday’s showdown against longtime rival Greenwich Academy — a lead.
Pucel’s goal 1 minute, 32 seconds into the match put the Tigers in front, giving a team seeking its first win of the season much-needed momentum and confidence.
The one goal and the boost of momentum went a long way, as Sacred Heart held on to register a hard-fought 1-0 victory over visiting Greenwich Academy in an always anticipated FAA matchup.
“The way the season has gone so far, we have had to come back from two goals down in four of our five games,” said Tigers first-year coach Stuart Smith, whose squad improved to 1-3-2 on the season. “The girls wanted to start off on the right foot and really get into the game early and that goal gave them a lot of confidence against a strong team. GA has a great squad, so just getting ahead in the game gave us a lot of belief.”
With Sacred Heart applying pressure on Greenwich Academy’s end of the field, Pucel received the ball just outside the 18 after the Gators couldn’t clear it, and booted a shot from the left side past goalie Meghan Keating inside the right post, making it 1-0 in the second minute.
“I was all alone at the top right outside the 18 and I just followed through and hit it,” said Pucel a senior midfielder. “It’s definitely great to get goals early on to set the pace.”
Greenwich Academy, which made a spirited push to tie the score in the second half, is 2-3-1 following the defeat.
“They were the better team in the first half and overall today,” GA coach Alistair Lonsdale said. “They played really well, were very organized and very aggressive. Up front, they have strong, fast players that gave us a lot of problems.”
One of the Gators’ best scoring chances occurred when freshman forward Grace von Oiste sent a shot on goal from 10 yards out that was turned away by Tigers senior goalie Charlie Clark with 5:25 remaining.
Meanwhile, Keating kept it a 1-0 game making a save off a shot from forward Alana Frederick late in the second half. Greenwich Academy freshman forwards Katherine Goldsmith and Chloe Burraway, and senior midfielder Graiden Berger put pressure on during the opening half, but Sacred Heart’s backline rose to the occasion.
Julia Pogge (senior), Stephanie Jordan (junior) and Claire Liddy (sophomore) each sparked Sacred Heart’s standout defensive effort.
“Our offense starts with our defense, that’s our motto,” said Clark, who recorded five saves. “This year we are working on staying tight in our backline and in the midfield. Our communication has improved as the season has gone on. They are a local rival and a tough team to play every single year, so it’s a great win.”
Said Smith: “Today was our first shutout and we got it by a combination of being organized defensively and working hard to press the ball. We wanted to close down spaces and Julia Pogge, Stephanie Jordan and Claire Liddy were fantastic.”
Scoring opportunities were pretty scarce, as both teams battled back-and-forth for possession in the midfield. Keating finished with five saves for the Gators.
“Obviously, we have a lot of kinks to work out,” Keating said. “We played well in the second half, but we got away from our style a little bit. We needed to settle down and switch the field. The drive is there, we just have to do it playing our style.”
Added Lonsdale: “We are very young, with six freshman on the field playing against bigger players. So we are building.”
Sacred Heart plays Masters School on the road Friday at 4:30 p.m. GA is on the road against Taft on Wednesday.
SACRED HEART 1, GREENWICH ACADEMY 0
GREENWICH ACADEMY 0 0 — 0
SACRED HEART 1 0 — 1
Records: Sacred Heart 1-3-2; Greenwich Academy 2-3-1; Goals: SH — Ellen Pucel; Goalies: GA — Meghan Keating (5 saves); SH — Charlie Clark (5 saves).