GREENWICH >> The Staples girls’ lacrosse team was less than 40 seconds away from completing easily one of the greatest comebacks this season.
Down 11-3 early in the second half Friday afternoon in the FCIAC quarterfinals, the fifth-seeded Wreckers fought their way back against No. 4 Greenwich, as Nicki Najarian scored with 39 seconds remaining to put her team within one goal.
After gaining possession from the draw, and with the Cardinals down a man, Staples made a valiant effort to get a decent shot off but Greenwich’s goalie Kylie Ginsburg and the defense held firm and a scramble at the front cage for the ball ensued as the buzzer rang and Greenwich held on for the 14-13 dramatic win to advance to the semifinals.
“I’m very, very proud of how well these girls came back,” Staples head coach Pete Najarian said. “They came roaring back against a very good team.”
What appeared to be headed for a blowout, ended up turning into an exciting and high-energy second half.
Facing a seven-goal deficit to start the final 25 minutes, the Wreckers (9-6) used a more controlled offensive approach and most importantly, figured out the draw, which hurt them in the first half.
“Possession is everything so the draw is a huge part of the game at this level,” Najarian said. “They (Greenwich) were killing us on the draw circle at the beginning of the game.”
Led by Staples’ Jenna McNicholas, who was key on the draw, the Wreckers slowly started to chip away at the Cardinals lead.
After Greenwich’s Carolyn Paletta scored to make it 11-3 to start the second half, Staples’ Meredith Hood and Paige Murray led the charge to bring the Wreckers within 14-9.
Staples offense, combined with an aggressive defensive approach, highlighted a 6-0 pivotal run in the second half to get the Wreckers within one goal of tying the game.
Greenwich (10-6) was plagued by a few yellow cards, including one to Paletta late in the game as she was forced to sit out the final minutes of the contest.
“We knew it was going to be a hard game,” Greenwich head coach Caitlin Keane said. “We thought we had a nice lead going in, but a couple cards here and there allowed them to creep back in, and they adjusted what they were doing on the draws, so they were able to win more of the draws.”
Greenwich however, got a big effort by Ginsburg down the stretch as she made multiple stops. She finished the game with 11 saves.
“She prepared and she knew what she needed to do,” Keane said of Ginsburg. “She stepped up big for us.”
Paletta paced the Cardinals, who will play in Tuesday’s semifinal, with four goals and three assists, while Paige Maunter added two goals and two assists and Maddy Graves finished with two assists.
Staples was led by Hood’s four goals, Murray added two goals and three assists, while Nicole Williams had a big game with two goals.
Staples will now prepare for the upcoming state tournament. Najarian said he likes where his team is at.
“We’re going to take a couple days off and regroup,” he said. “And I think these girls can go far in states.”