After being robbed on a bid to tie the game early in the second half, Shelton High's Mikey Sciortino not only netted the equalizer but also put home the game-winning shot.
The senior led the Shelton High boys soccer team to a dramatic 3-2 upset win over host Greenwich in the Class LL state tournament quarterfinals on Saturday morning.
This outcome marked a pair of firsts. It was first time second-seeded Greenwich — which earned a share of the FCIAC title with Trumbull — lost all season long, and the first time since 2005 that the Gaels have reached the state semifinals.
“These guys are relentless. The don’t give up,” said Shelton coach Joe D’Auria, whose team won the SCC title and has moved to within just two victories of earning a state championship trophy.
Shelton, the seventh seed in the bracket, will take on another FCIAC team, Danbury, a winner over Trumbull, in the semifinal round. Danbury is the No. 11 seed and upset third-seeded Trumbull, 4-2.
Greenwich finished the game with a 17-7 shot advantage, and Gael goalkeeper Isaac Garcia was credited with a dozen saves, including a leaping stop of a second-half chance to keep Shelton within a goal.
Christopher Mac Kay, Greenwich’s netminder, made a sliding stop to deny Sciortino from point-blank range as the Gaels started to create more opportunities in the final 40 minutes.
“I used that as fire, as anger to get those other two goals,” Sciortino said. “I knew we weren’t losing. I knew we were getting through it.”
He tied the game after a Greenwich foul led to a free-kick opportunity from 50 yards out, just inside the left sideline.
Kyle Gil took the kick and sent the ball into the near side of the 18-yard box, where Sciortino redirected it with his head, past a diving Mac Kay with 10:40 to go.
Just when it seemed the game was headed for overtime the Gaels struck again. And it was the same combination.
The Cardinals turned the ball over about 40 yards out, and Gil picked up the ball and sent a cross from the right side where Sciortino gathered the ball in the box and banged home a shot from the far side. Just like that, the Gaels led for the first time, with only 1:25 remaining.
D’Auria said his team didn’t prepare well the day before and so the Gaels tried to get into the right frame of mind before the 11 a.m. start against Greenwich.
“We arrived here extra early just to gather our thoughts and gather our minds,” D’Auria said.
After the early start it was a pair of late finishes that made the difference.
“It’s kind of tough because we were the better team across the board,” said Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam, noting that his Cardinals had a majority of scoring chances but just didn’t capitalize. “Give credit to Shelton. They were still in the game. They kept battling away.
“They did do one thing that was better than us — they finished,” Putnam added.
The Cardinals scored first on a Sebastian Hernandez goal. Shelton answered when Nicola LoBello finished off a cross from Isajiah Robles. Greenwich went back in front on Alejandro MacLean’s net-finder. It was 2-1 Greenwich at halftime.
D’Auria said his team made several adjustments with formats and personnel to adapt to the pace of the game and adjust to Greenwich’s play.
The Gaels have one more opponent to figure out before competing for a championship. In the meantime, they’re enjoying the accomplishment of reaching the semifinals.
“Today is one of the highlights of this program,” D’Auria said.