STRATFORD—Up top, the Bunnell High girls soccer team boasts one of the quickest one-two punches in the state.
While fleet-footed senior strikers Olivia Kells and Fabiola Millien-Faustin have grown close over their respective Bulldog careers, there had always been one thing missing between the two of them.
Kells had made it to the postseason, doing so as a freshman starter for Bunnell in 2016. For Millien-Faustin, who rose up to the role of a starter through hard work in the JV ranks, the postseason had eluded her.
Kells and Millien-Faustin scored two goals each to lead Bunnell to a 5-0 win over arch-rival Stratford, clinching a spot in this year’s Class L state tournament.
“It means the world to me,” Millien-Faustin said. “Our goal isn’t just to beat Stratford. Obviously, that means a lot but it’s not the only thing we’re focused on.”
While technically a rivalry because of the in-town proximity of both schools, Bunnell has owned the recent history of the series.
Wednesday’s win in misty and sometimes rainy conditions was Bunnell’s 10th straight over Stratford. The Bulldogs are 18-0-1 against the Red Devils since 2008.
A 1-1 tie on Sept. 27, 2014, was the only blemish on the Bulldogs run of success over Stratford.
Getting into the state tournament again was a nice way to end the regular season for the Bulldogs, who improved to 6-9 overall and gained that magical .400 winning percentage to qualify.
“This is my 11th year and I know how hard it is to get into that tournament because of the competition we play on a regular basis (in the SWC),” Bunnell coach Sebastian Wojdaszka, whose team won four of its last six games to qualify for the state tournament. “This game isn’t a gimme by any means, either. Senior Night, a lot of stuff going on, you never know.”
Kells and Millien-Faustin made sure the game didn’t stay close for too long.
Kells staked the Bulldogs to a 1-0 lead early and when she couldn’t quite get to a centered ball later in the half, teammate Natalie Farrell, a sophomore, finished the play for a 2-0 advantage.
“I think we all really flatter each other,” Kells said. “It took us a while to get into our groove, but we understand each and other now. We’ve gotten smarter with how we play with our weaknesses.”
Mia DiPronio, Millien-Faustin and Grace Caldwell had assists.
In the second half, Millien-Faustin and Kells both worked perfectly fed through balls into a three-goal barrage that blew the game open.
Millien-Faustin, who was whistled for a bevy of offsides in the first half, got her timing down and netted two of them as the duo showcased their speed and one-two punch.
“The idea isn’t to isolate them, but they’re really grown together,” Wojdaszka said. “It’s been fun to watch them grow. The combination of their friendship, off and on the field, it’s been great.”
Kells—who has a team-high 16 goals this season—has acted as a mentor for Millien-Faustin, pushing her to raise her game as she went from the JV ranks to a starter.
“She’s been so influential,” Millien-Faustin said. “She’s always made sure I was on my grind and doing what I needed to do to get here. It’s because we have that friendship, not just on the field. We’re able to have that bond.”
Kells said she and Millien-Faustin simply complement each other.
“Me and Fabi both have things that the other person doesn’t have,” Kells said. “We’re like perfect together. If I’m not doing well, Fabi steps up. If she’s not having a good game, I’ll step up. We’re like really there for each other.”
With both on their game, Stratford didn’t have a chance against the Bulldogs.
“We just weren’t playing offense and that puts too much pressure on our defense and it tires them out,” said Stratford coach Sarah Stevens, whose team scored just 14 goals (12 in two games) while going 2-14. “That’s where we broke down in the back. It’s our mindset. We just have to change that mindset.”
Senior goalie Helen LeFever made nearly a dozen saves for the Red Devils.
“Helen has done incredible this year,” Stevens said. “She’s an amazing leader and she’s made some amazing saves. We’re going to miss her next year.”
Next year won’t begin for a few more weeks for Bunnell, though, which will be on the road for the first round of the state tournament.
“It’s crazy,” Kells said. “Last time we made states was in my freshman year and now we get at least one extra game.”
And that’s one more game with her friend and teammate Fabiola Millien-Faustin.
THE PHOTO ALBUM
THIS POST IS SPONSORED BY