WESTPORT — After Staples and Darien played to a scoreless tie for a share of the Class L state title last season, the much-anticipated rematch Thursday afternoon was sure to be a classic.
Intense play on both sides helped the matchup live up to its billing, but unlike last year, one team was able to grab an edge.
Staples got a pair of goals from seniors Meghan Johnson and Abby Najarian before holding off a late Blue Wave rally to capture the 2-1 win at home.
“If you can keep the ball out of the circle then they can’t score,” Staples coach Ian Tapsall said. “It’s really tough for someone to come back down from 2-0 to score three goals.”
Although Darien was able to set the tempo in the opening minutes, neither team could break through early in the first half.
But the Blue Wave’s tempo lead was short-lived as a goal from Najarian with 17:39 left in the first swung the momentum into the Wreckers’ favor.
The score stood frozen through halftime and into the second half, before Johnson knocked in the second Wreckers goal to put a stranglehold on the game — thanks in part to the defensive force to set up the goal, she said.
“The defense is really strong,” Johnson said. “Once they’re strong it pushes up the field and once (the ball) is in the forwards’ hands, then we’re good to go.”
Darien lost momentum in the first half and seemed to fight the rest of the game to try to regain control.
A surge to start the second half helped get the Blue Wave going in the right direction, but after the goal from Johnson with 21:08 left in the game, Darien was in a race against the clock.
A goal from senior Sydney Schrenker with 10:48 left cut the lead and gave Darien its best chance of the game, but the Blue Wave were not able to find the equalizer before the final buzzer.
“We started the game well,” Darien coach Mo Minicus said. “Then when Staples got their opportunity, it gave them a little bit of mojo. I thought we had a great second half. Offensively, I thought we had nice opportunities, we pressed forward, applied pressure. But time ran out.”
Staples has continued to be difficult to beat at home. Over the past two seasons the Wreckers are 20-0-1 at home — with the last home loss coming on Oct. 9, 2015 — against Darien.
SEEDING MEANS A LOT
With the FCIAC tournament teams set, the results of the final week will have huge implications with several seeds still yet to be finalized before the first tournament game next week.
“I have to give it to my team. This is a team sport and everyone participated and we got the win. This game was really important for us. It’s just like revenge and it shows what we have and what we’re going to have going forward.” — Staples senior Meghan Johnson on knocking off Darien in the teams’ first matchup since the Class L final last year.
STAPLES 2, DARIEN 1
DARIEN 0 1—1
STAPLES 1 1—2
Records: Staples 10-3, Darien 12-2-1. Goals: S— Meghan Johnson, Abby Najarian; D—Sydney Schrenker. Assists: S—Madelaine Ambrose, Najarian; Goalies: S—Bridget Mulloy; D—Grace Aronsohn (3 saves) Shots: S—5; D—1.