GREENWICH, Conn. – In the winter and spring, Greenwich’s Naomi Leeds is one of the best sprinters in the region. On Wednesday, she used her speed to help the Cardinals win an important girls soccer game.
Leeds scored both Greenwich goals in a 2-1 win over Westhill. It was the final regular season game for Greenwich, which heads into the playoffs with a 9-1-6 record. The victory should give Greenwich a home game for Saturday’s playoff opener.
The speedy Leeds made the difference. With the Cardinals trailing 1-0, she got a step on a defender and fired a shot from 12 yards out that cleanly beat the Westhill goalie to tie the game with 12:21 left.
She got the game winner with 3:29 left when she got behind the Westhill defense and whistled a shot past the defenseless goalkeeper. Both goals were a direct result of Leeds’ fleet feet.
“My main asset is my speed,’’ said Leeds, who runs individual sprints and relays for the Cardinals. “I’m not too fancy when it comes to ball work. Those two goals were just me running into space. Because I run track in winter and spring, my workouts really help me with my burst of speed.”
Leeds is a critical player for the Cardinals, who are seeking their third straight Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship. The team is built around its defense. Leeds is one of the primary offensive options and must be effective in the league and state tournament if the Cards hope to have a long stay.
“She can hold the ball, she’s got size and she’s got speed,’’ Greenwich coach Danny Simpson said. “Today she was on fire.”
Simpson believes, however, that the key to Greenwich’s postseason success will come down its defense. The Cardinals have eight shutouts and yielded just 10 goals all season. Senior Sara Mischanti is the defensive anchor for Greenwich, which allowed its first goal in four games during Wednesday’s game.
“Sarah is like a linebacker back there,’’ Simpson said. “She’s our Ray Lewis. She keeps getting battered and battered and battered and keeps coming back for more.”
Simpson likes the way his team is heading into the playoffs. “We’re playing Greenwich soccer,’’ he said. “The defense is very stingy. Going into the playoffs, we know it’s all about defense. You’re not going to win games 4-0. I’m very proud of the way the girls bounced back in this one.”