TRUMBULL >> Early in the first half of the Class LL state quarterfinals Sunday afternoon against defending state champion St. Joseph, Fairfield Warde head girls’ soccer coach Tom Cunningham took starter Virginie Larouche aside.
He simply told the senior co-captain he needed more from her.
A few minutes later when Larouche stepped back on the field, that’s exactly what she brought.
Larouche provided a much-needed spark as she scored one goal and recorded one assist and freshman Lauren Tangney netted the game-winning goal for her team with five minutes left to propel the sixth-seeded Mustangs to the 3-2 victory over No. 3 St. Joseph.
“Well, we started out really flat, and I was a major part of that,” Larouche said. “He just told me, ‘You need to step it up because it starts with you; you need to pump everyone up.’”
The Mustangs now advance to the state semifinals for the first since 2007, which was the same year they won the Class L crown.
Warde (16-3-3) will face No. 10 Ridgefield on Tuesday at Newtown High at 6 p.m.
The last time Warde and St. Joseph met was in the regular season with Warde winning 1-0 and ending St. Joes 36-game unbeaten streak.
“I knew this was going to be a really tough game…but we did it,” Larouche said.
Warde’s victory came after a furious comeback from a relentless St. Joseph squad that did not go away.
With a 2-0 advantage midway through the second half, St. Joseph’s Jenna Bike cut the lead in half off a penalty kick with 14:21 remaining in the game. Not even a minute later the Cadets tied it off a beautiful free kick from Marissa Grasso that Tory Bike scored to make it a 2-2 game.
“I was always told a 2-0 lead is not a good lead to have because as soon as they score one goal they’re right back in it,” Larouche said. “I knew we needed to get another goal, it just depended when we were going to get it.”
The Mustangs got their next goal about eight minutes later as Warde’s Alexa Montani set up Tangney for what turned out to be the eventual game-winner.
“Alexa took the defender to the line, and she cut it back, got the defender committed and put an amazing ball in and I just got in front of the defender and tried to put it away,” Tangney said. “I knew that it was going to be one of the last opportunities, time was running down, I didn’t want it to go to overtime, so I knew I had to put the last chance away; it was unreal.”
Larouche described Tangney, who is just a freshman, as one of the more positive and upbeat players, so it seemed fitting that she scored the go-ahead goal.
“She (Lauren) is such an advocate of don’t give up,” Larouche said. “I just knew she was going to get one.”
After a scoreless first half that saw multiple opportunities on both ends to get on the board, Larouche took a pass from Tangney and booted it in from about 30 yards out.
The ball went just above the St. Joseph’s keepers hands and found its way to the back center of the net for the 1-0 advantage early in the second half.
“She’s a difference maker for us,” Cunningham said of Larouche. “She’s really a big leader for us.”
Warde added to its lead with 22:57 left off a corner from Larouche that Anna Glovin headed in to go up 2-0.
Warde’s Mollie Kerrigan finished with four saves, while St. Joseph’s Veronica O’Rourke collected four saves.