WESTPORT — Last season, as Zoe Barnett watched and bided her time behind a three-year starter and all-state goalkeeper, she took everything in and learned as much as she can.
This fall, as a senior starter, Barnett finally got her shot.
Barnett backstopped an undefeated Staples High girls soccer regular season, giving up just five goals in 16 games and recording her 11th shutout of the season in the Wreckers’ 1-0 win over St. Joseph on Monday afternoon a Loeffler Field.
The victory sewed up the top spot in the FCIAC standings as the Wreckers improved to 13-0-3 on the season.
St. Joseph slipped to 13-1-2 and will finish as the No. 2 seed in the league.
Barnett finished with six saves, none bigger than the two she made midway through the second half on St. Joseph senior captain Jessica Mazo.
Less than a minute later, Katie Ialeggio turned an Ashley Wright through ball into a goal that gave the Wreckers a 1-0 lead that Barnett would not relinquish.
“I’ve never been this happy, honestly,” Barnett said. “I’m so proud of my team and I can’t wait for the postseason.”
With Staples former goalkeeper Anna Siviski graduated, Barnett stepped into the role as the last line of varsity defense and has shined.
“Zoe has come up for big for us a few times this year,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “She had some big gloves to fill, but she’s been top-class this season. She’s been waiting for her opportunity and to come in like she has, I’m so proud of her.”
With the two teams deadlocked at nil-nil, the talented foot of Mazo almost the gave the Cadets the lead.
“Two great saves by the (Staples) goalkeeper,” St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira said. “That was it.”
With 26:15 left in the game, Barnett made a huge slap away save on a shot that appeared destined to slip under the bar.
The Wreckers also warded off the ensuing corner kick, but Mazo got loose again to blast a shot on goal that Barnett caught out of the air.
“Oh my God, going back to last against St. Joe’s, I knew they always shoot high. They use the same tactics every time,” Barnett said. “I’ve been getting ready for that moment for so long. As soon as it came, I knew what to do. It was like everything slowed down and I was ready.”
Soon things would speed up the other way.
THE LONE GOAL
It only took the Wreckers 65 seconds from Barnett’s second straight save to take the lead.
As Staples worked the ball up the field, Wright slipped a through ball to Ialleggio, who one touched the ball ahead and fired a low shot toward the far post and out of reach of the hands of St. Joseph goalkeeper Grace Hickey.
“This feels so amazing,” Ialleggio said. “We were tested a couple of times. They’re a really great team, but we went after every ball and we never gave up. That’s what helped us get the win.”
The Wreckers were witness to St. Joseph not quitting a year ago in the FCIAC championship game as the Cadets won the league title in the closing seconds.
“My girls knew we couldn’t give them a single second,” Beattie said. “We did that last year when they scored (in the closing seconds).”
Despite having some top scoring chances, Nogueira wasn’t overly pleased with the game but said his team is ready for the postseason.
“I didn’t think it was a great game,” he said. “I don’t think either team played very well because of the grass conditions, but give them credit. They scored a goal and we didn’t, so now we get ready for the playoffs.
“I’m confident in my team,” he added. “I like where we are right now. We’re in a good place and we’ll see what the playoffs bring.”
“We have enough energy to last for 10 seasons. We’re ready,” Barnett said when asked about being ready for the upcoming postseason.
STAPLES 1, ST. JOSEPH 0
ST. JOSEPH 0 0—0
STAPLES 0 1—1
Records: St. Joseph 13-1-2, Staples 13-0-3; Goals: S—Katie Ialeggio; Assists: S—Ashley Wright; Goalkeepers: SJ—Grace Hickey (4 saves); S—Zoe Barnett (6 saves).