Staples and Warde declared FCIAC co-champions after 1-1 draw

The Staples and Fairfield Warde girls soccer teams battled it out for an even 100 minutes in the FCIAC final on Wednesday night at Norwalk High School with absolutely no separation.

With the score tied 1-1 and no clear winner in sight, the teams were declared co-champions after a 20-minute overtime session. The title is the first for No. 2 Warde, and the first for the No. 4 Wreckers since 1995. The MVP awards went to Warde's Anna Glovin and Staples' Lauren Garcia, the two goal-scorers.

Instead of the lottery of penalty kicks, which isn't used to decide a champion in Connecticut, both teams received winners medals in a hard-fought game.

"I thought both teams were excellent," Staples coach Barry Beattie said. "I know both teams were leaving the field feeling weird. It was probably the fair result; neither team deserved to lose."

Glovin netted a goal off a corner kick five minutes into the second half. With time running out for the Wreckers, Garcia unleashed a strike from 30 yards out that flew into the corner of the net with 4:40 remaining in regulation. The teams played for an additional 20 minutes after that, and when no goals were scored the teams were forced to share the trophy.

Some of the Warde players, including junior standout Jennifer Maldonado, thought penalties were next.

"We were kind of disappointed because we actually expected (penalties)," Maldonado said. "We weren't ready for (the game to end). ... In soccer you get results like that. I feel like both teams played well; we really wanted it. It is what it is; we're co-champions right now so that feels good.

"We were ready for penalties."

The Mustangs had a pair of chances to win the game in overtime. First, Glovin hit the post with a shot a minute into overtime. In the 11th minute of overtime, Wreckers goalie Mary Bennewitz made a fingertip save from a set piece.

The Wreckers also had a chance early in overtime, but Maldonado made a vital interception to deny Tia Zajec from racing clear in on goal.

Maldonado starred in defense for the Mustangs, despite spending most of the season playing up front. Maldonado made a number of crucial tackles and added another element to the Warde defense that didn't allow a goal in its first eight games and just eight all season.

"She gives us a different component back there for us with her speed and her tenacious one-on-one defending," Warde coach Tom Cunningham said. "That's the type of player she is; she's been playing great for us back there."

Neither team made a breakthrough in a first half that featured plenty of hard tackles. The best chance came when Glovin hit the post from a corner kick. The teams combined for just six shots before halftime.

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Glovin met Claire Pullen's corner kick to give Warde the lead with 36:55 left in the game.

"It was a great ball by Claire and Anna was on the backside," Cunningham said. "We've been talking all season about getting on the end of those corners and she put it in the back of the net."

The goal woke the Wreckers, who applied pressure on the Warde goal with most of the shots landing high and wide of Warde keeper Mollie Kerrigan's goal. The momentum burst when Garcia picked up the ball in midfield and hit a bullet past Kerrigan.

"It was a wonder strike; you save your best goal for the final like that," Beattie said. "As soon as it left her feet I was celebrating; I had the perfect view."

The anticlimactic nature to Wednesday's game won't be the final time either team takes the field this season. The teams will both participate in the Class LL state tournament, set to begin next Tuesday.

"I don't know the word to describe it," Beattie said. "It was a strange feeling (both teams) weren't sure if they should celebrate or not. They've never been in this position. I told the girls that the end of co-champions is champions so they are champions; we'll share it with Warde.",

Staples 1, Warde 1 (OT)

STAPLES 0 1 0--0

WARDE 0 1 0--1

Records: Warde 13-3-3; Staples 12-2-5. Goals: S--Lauren Garcia; W--Anna Glovin. Assists: W--Claire Pullen. Goalies: W--Mollie Kerrigan (4 saves), S--Mary Benewitz (4 saves). Shots: W--7; S--17.