WESTPORT — Staples High’s Dan Woog has seen enough soccer games to know the outcome can come in a myriad of ways. That’s why the way Tuesday afternoon’s contest played out didn’t surprise the head coach in the least.
Scoreless in the first round of the Class LL State Boys Soccer Tournament between Staples and Norwalk, and with the clock ticking down toward the end of regulation, Staples’ Joe Pravder found the back of the net on a highlight-worthy goal to give his team the lead and eventual 1-0 win.
The 10th-seeded Wreckers advance to the second round and will face No. 7 Newtown on Thursday at Newtown.
“I’ve been around enough to know that goals are not as easy as they seem,” Woog said. “When you’re out there it’s really tough. That’s the beauty of soccer, to me, that’s why our kids love this game. You fight for everything. Norwalk fought for everything.”
The way the game played out at Loeffler Field, it was merely a matter of time before Staples scored. The Wreckers who had been pressing all afternoon, had possession in Norwalk territory with two minutes remaining when Pravder found himself with the ball after a header bounced his way. All it took was a split second as he wound up and rocket-fired with his left foot from 25-yards out. The ball sailed into the upper right corner of the net for the eventual game-winner.
“Honestly, we expected it,” Pravder said of finally scoring. “I thought we were the better team; I saw it coming.”
Staples, which was playing with a near healthy lineup, shutout a young but talented Bears squad. The Wreckers defense, led by Andrew Puchala, Connor Weiler and Gabe Pensak played solid minutes, giving the Wreckers a boost and multiple opportunities on the offensive end.
Norwalk, the defending state champs, had a few chances throughout but couldn’t put one away when needed.
“I was hoping that we would capitalize on the few opportunities that we had,” Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said. “You got to give the kid (Pravder) credit; that was a phenomenal goal, you don’t see shots like that very often. It’s always tough when the season ends, then you got to wait eight, nine months.”