FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – The road to the conference championship that always seems up for grabs begins Friday, as the boys' soccer playoffs get underway.
Seeding hardly ever seems to matter in the boys' soccer conference tournament, as the top-ranked team has fallen before reaching the finals for three straight years.
For two years, it’s been Norwalk High School that has fallen short despite owning the best record in the league. The Bears once again enter the tournament with the top seed with an impressive 14-1-1 record.
Norwalk will have to hold off eighth-seeded Danbury (9-6-1) to avoid another early exit in a 7 p.m. game. The Bears’ only blemishes on the season were a loss to Wilton and a scoreless tie with Darien. Norwalk defeated Danbury, 2-0, Sept. 19.
Ridgefield (13-2-1) enters the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the league, rolling on an eight-game unbeaten streak. The bad news for the Tigers is they host one of the two teams that beat them this season in New Canaan at 4:30 p.m.
The Rams (9-4-3) are no stranger to knocking off higher-seeded teams, having done it two years in a row in both the conference and state tournaments. However, New Canaan finished the season with a disappointing 1-4-1 stretch and will need to turn its fortunes around to find its post-season magic again.
Perhaps the pick of the first round match-ups is between third-seeded Greenwich (12-2-2) and sixth-seeded Staples of Westport (10-4-2) at 3:30 p.m.
Staples finds itself in an unfamiliar spot with a rare road game to start the post-season. It’s hard to call the Wreckers’ season a “down” year, but when you’ve won more conference titles than any other team in league history, anything but a run to the finals would be considered a disappointment.
Greenwich was considered the favorite to win the league to open the season, but a loss and a tie to start the year raised eyebrows. The Cardinals quickly turned things around, however, racking up 52 goals on the season.
Staples beat Greenwich, 1-0, in the teams’ regular season contest.
Rounding out the opening games is fourth-seeded Wilton (12-3-1) hosting fifth-ranked Stamford (11-3-2) at 4 p.m.
Wilton featured a strong offense this season, scoring two or more goals in all but three of its matches. The Warriors tallied 51 goals on the year and came up with impressive victories against Norwalk and New Canaan.
Stamford is playing in its first conference tournament in six years after authoring its best season since 1997. The two teams did not play each other in the regular season.
The conference semifinals will be Tuesday at Fairfield Ludlowe. The conference championship will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Norwalk High School.