Trumbull forges deadlock with Warde

It’s been eight years since the last time the Trumbull girls soccer team posted a victory over Fairfield Warde, a winless streak that stretched to 0-7-2 following its FCIAC matchup on Oct 18.

But you never would have known it looking at the faces of the Eagles as they danced off the field in full celebration mode.

Sometimes a tie is just as good as a win.

It certainly was in this case, as underdog Trumbull came back from two deficits to pull out a 3-3 tie against the Mustangs in the final home game of the regular season on the turf at McDougall Stadium.

Fairfield Warde (11-1-2) went into the contest having allowed just three goals all season long, and never more than one in any single game.

Trumbull (7-5-2) matched that in 80 minutes with an effort that just might have secured the Eagles a spot in the FCIAC playoffs. Trumbull is 4-0-1 over its last five games.

“Fairfield Warde is a very good team, so to come back to tie this game twice is significant,” Trumbull head coach Daniel Uhrlass said. “I think they now know what they can do if they play their best. We showed so much fight and so much character. Coming back like we did is going to give us so much belief in ourselves going forward.”

Warde controlled most of the first half, taking a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute as Nell Carpenter converted a cross from Meredith Nerreau. The Mustangs, who went into the game ranked second in the FCIAC standings, outshot the Eagles 6-1 over the first 40 minutes — with Trumbull’s only shot coming off the foot of Meghan Ahearn with 39 seconds left.

But Trumbull came out in the second half looking like a totally different team, shifting momentum solidly in its favor, then taking a 2-1 lead on two goals by senior captain Kendall Szulimowski, the second coming with 29:27 left.

“We didn’t really change anything,” Uhrlass said. “I just think the girls felt like it was now or never.”

After having a penalty shot call overruled and a goal on a corner kick overturned, Warde took what looked like an insurmountable 3-2 lead with seven minutes left on goals by Lauren Tangney and junior Jenn Maldonado.

But, Trumbull would not be denied.

Sophomore Jillian Pressler tied the game at 3-3 with two minutes left, cranking home a rebound off a punch-out by goalkeeper Mollie Kerrigan and the Eagles held on for the all-important tie.

“They were pretty high up in the standings and we knew we had to bring it,” Szulimowski said. “This was the seniors’ last game on the home turf so we wanted to win. This was huge because now we have a better chance at a higher seed for the FCIAC playoffs.”

Warde was coming off an emotional victory over St. Joseph, but Mustangs head coach Tom Cunningham wasn’t calling it a hangover. He simply gave credit where credit was due.

Trumbull attacked Warde with a similar approach employed by Ludlowe in handing the Mustangs their only loss of the season, clogging up the middle of the field and not allowing their playmakers to get the ball on their feet in the goal box.

“I would give a lot of credit to Trumbull and the gameplan they were able to put together,” Cunningham said. “They countered very well and created a lot of good chances for themselves. I wouldn’t call it a hangover. I would call it a very good game by Trumbull today.”

Szulimowski’s first goal was a thing of beauty. Freshman Kristen Pagliaro crossed the ball from the right sideline to the near post. Senior Dani McGillicuddy, who had a solid game in the center of the field, crossed it again to the left. Wasting no time, Szulimowski one-timed it in with a left-footed shot to make it 1-1 in the second minute of the second half.

“Before the game our coach told us to get our shots on goal, it didn’t matter how good they are,” Szulimowski said. “If you’re going to place it, drill it into the back of the net.”

The second goal was more fortunate. Szulimowski got sent in on a short breakaway after a Warde defender fell down going for a 50/50 ball in the center of the field. Szulimowski beat Kerrigan to the right side to put Trumbull up 2-1.

“The ball took a bounce and as she went to get it she tripped over my heel,” Szulimowski said. “It wasn’t intentional.”

Trumbull goalkeeper Aleana Paz only made eight saves in the game, but a number of them were fantastic.

Warde’s Taylor Gabrenas had a golden chance to put the Mustangs ahead with 24:30 left after getting through the defense with a teammate open to her right. Gabrenas chose to shoot, and had one labeled for the left corner but Paz made a brilliant diving save to keep the game tied.

Tangney scored off a scramble in front after Paz made an initial save and Maldonado put Warde up 3-2 from 30 yards out on a shot that deflected off the right post and in.

Trumbull came right back to tie again. Senior Kerrigan Loughman started it off, lofting a cross into the box out of the right corner. The threat of Szulimowski sitting on the left post appeared to unsettle the Mustangs.

Loughman punched it out to the center of the field and Presser was right there, slamming it back inside the left post with a left-footed shot.

“She’s a great technical player,” Uhrlass said. “That was a really great moment for her.”