Winning feeling for Trumbull Eagles

Coach Cindy Gallucci probably would have chosen a different ending, something more in line with the type of breakout season it was for the Trumbull High field hockey team.

But no manner of defeat could have stopped the Eagles and their second-year head coach from walking off the field with their heads held high.

Senior Darci Byington scored two goals and assisted on another while goalkeeper Katie Stepsis stood tall in the second half to lead No 13 Fairfield Warde to a 4-0 victory over the 20th-seeded Eagles in the qualifying round of the Class L state tournament at Warde’s Tetreau-Davis Field on Nov. 3.

But this was a rare occasion where both teams came away feeling victorious.

Warde (9-6-1) moved on while Trumbull (7-10 overall) celebrated its finest season since 2008 — the last time the Eagles qualified for the state tournament.

With a host of talented young players returning, including leading scorer Sophia Hopwood and center midfielder Keara Chapman, Gallucci is hoping this was just the first of many trips to the states.

“We had a lot of corners and a lot of shots on goal but we just couldn’t turn them into points on the scoreboard,” Gallucci said. “But in no way does that take away from what we’ve accomplished this year and what we’re poised to do next year.”

Trumbull qualified for the state tournament with a 2-1 victory over Warde on Senior Night at McDougall Stadium. Unfortunately for the Eagles, they ended up getting a tough draw for the opening round and were forced to play those same FCIAC rivals bent on revenge.

“That night we beat them, it was our turn,” Gallucci said. “This time, it was their turn. They really came out ready to play.”

Warde certainly looked like a team with a purpose, taking a 2-0 halftime lead on goals by Byington with 14:37 left and fellow senior captain Kelly Milicia with 7:25 remaining.

The Mustangs scored two more goals in the first four minutes of the second half to put the game away. Stepsis sealed the victory with five of her six saves in the second half.

But Trumbull never stopped playing hard. The Eagles actually played their best after Warde took a 4-0 lead, out-shooting the Mustangs 6-4 in the second half while collecting six penalty corners to five for Warde over the final 30 minutes.

Trumbull could not convert despite the efforts of Hopwood and senior Emily Uus, but the Eagles definitely played like they belonged.

“The only thing I asked of them as we got off the bus was that they could put their heads on their pillows tonight knowing they did everything they possibly could to play their absolute best,” Gallucci said.

Senior goalkeeper Kourtney Soderholm certainly did her part with seven saves, including a number of point-blank stops against Warde’s talented forwards.