Ludlowe defeats Warde, retains Swedish Cup

The Fairfield Ludlowe boys soccer team had barely finished off its victory over Fairfield Warde when a throng of students clad in white stormed the field, enveloping anything wearing Falcons colors. It was all Ludlowe could do to protect the Swedish Cup, holding it high above their heads like some ancient idol.
It’s an odd-looking trophy, donated by the Scandinavian Club back when the town was originally split into two high schools and re-established in 2005 when the Falcons and Mustangs began playing each other again.
However, considering the fact that the Mustangs have never laid their hands on it, it’s easy to see why it’s so adored.
The undefeated Falcons made sure to retain ownership of the Swedish Cup for at least one more season, dominating the Mustangs for all but a few brief moments during a solid 3-1 victory Tuesday night in front of a large crowd at Taft Field.
Junior forwards Mike McArdle and Brendan Layne scored first-half goals and junior midfielder Tulio Almedia put the Falcons up 3-0 with 7:11 left in the second half.
Warde (3-2-1) did manage to break Ludlowe’s shutout streak, as sophomore Jonathan Schuster converted a penalty kick with 3:34 left against backup goalie Mickey Petrini.
It was the first goal allowed this season by the Falcons, who went into the game out-scoring their opponents 13-0.
“That was the only downer of the night,” Ludlowe head coach Kevin O’Hara said. “We didn’t think we were going to go undefeated and unscored upon all season.”
But Ludlowe (6-0) still got what it really wanted, keeping the trophy it has had in its possession since the split in 2003. Ludlowe is now 4-0-6 against Warde since renewing the rivalry in 2005.
“It’s been a great rivalry since it started,” O’Hara said. “It’s unfortunate one of us has to lose. I’ve known a bunch of those kids. I’ve trained them when they were younger and taught them in the classroom. I root for them 364 days of the year. The other day I’m coming after them.”
Ludlowe certainly did that, pouring shot after quality shot at the Warde cage over the first 15 minutes of the first half.
Only the spectacular play of Warde junior goalkeeper Michael Lerman kept the Falcons from building a big early lead.
McArdle broke the scoreless tie with 7:11 left in the first half, tapping in a shot along the left post in the aftermath of a corner kick by Lorin Tobey.
Layne converted a great long pass from senior defender Alec Georgiadis to make it 2-0 just a few minutes later.
The Falcons never lost control, finishing with a gaudy 29-6 advantage in shots and a 10-1 edge in corner kicks.
Ludlowe hardly allowed Warde to get the ball to its feet, cutting off every long pass attempt with a defense led by Tobey, Georgiadis and Richie Bellucci while using its speed and aggressiveness to keep the pressure on up front.
“When we win 50/50 balls, we dominate the games,” Tobey said. “We always win the second ball and we maintain possession. That’s what it comes down to for us. That’s why we’re playing so well.”
The rivalry with Warde has been as close as it gets over recent years with five straight ties prior to last year’s 1-0 win by the Falcons.
Ludlowe’s dominance this year proved how far the Falcons have come this season.
“It’s been a good year all around. Everyone’s playing well,” Tobey said.  “The way we’re playing, we can definitely play with anyone.”
The Falcons outshot the Mustangs 19-2 in the first half, but Warde turned the tide early in the second half, limiting Ludlowe’s scoring chances after making a few halftime adjustments. Ludlowe caught on quickly, and regained control.
“We had to make adjustments, so we came out with a 4-3-3 in the second half, and it worked,” Warde head coach Justin Ottavio said. “But Kevin O’Hara is a savvy guy. He made some adjustments to counter our adjustments and they started getting a little momentum back.”
Ludlowe would have scored at least six or seven goals if not for the play of Lerman, who finished with 15 saves, including a number of diving stops in the first half.
“I don’t think anyone could say enough about what he did in goal,” Ottavio said. “He’s a fighter and we’re very grateful to have him in there.”
“He was unbelievable,” O’Hara said. “He really kept them in the game. In all my years coaching against Warde, this is the best goalkeeping performance I’ve ever seen.”
Warde appeared to have scored a goal by Matteus Nascimento just five minutes into the second half, but the officials blew the play dead on a foul. Nascimento’s ensuing direct kick went wide.
“That really took the wind out of our sails,” Ottavio said. “There are always critical points in a game, and that could have been one for us.”
Ludowe goalie Fred Meagher made three saves.

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