GREENWICH — Staples excelled in its first five games, winning four times, yet Tuesday against FCIAC field hockey rival Greenwich, the defending Class L champion Wreckers raised their play to a higher level.
And that made an already difficult task for the Cardinals even tougher.
Controlling the ball on Greenwich’s end of the field the majority of the matchup, Staples won for the fifth time in six games this season, defeating the host Cardinals, 2-0, on Monday.
Staples coach Ian Tapsall noted the team is getting its chemistry back with the return of key players, who were injured. Junior midfielder/forward Laine Ambrose has returned to action, after sustaining a broken arm during the offseason and junior Olivia Bernard has worked her way back from an injury. Senior forward/tri-captain Kyle Kirby is also back on the field after missing a couple of games with an injury.
“Now we are back to full strength,” Tapsall said. “We didn’t have Bernard and Ambrose, so this was the first time we had a full squad. We had to get the rust out with the return of some of our players, especially Laine. We are actually where we should be for now.”
The Wreckers (5-1) received goals from junior Julia DiConza and senior Ella Bloomingdale in the first and second half, respectively. Greenwich (6-2), which saw its three game winning streak halted, received nine saves from junior goalie Jorja Pastore, who, along with the Cards’ defenders, was pressured throughout.
“Jorja had an awesome game and our defense played great, but they played defense the entire game,” GHS coach Megan Wax said. “Sixty minutes is too much to let them (the defense) take care of.”
Staples took a 1-0 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the opening half. DiConza, a junior, stole a Greenwich pass, and drove a shot inside the right post, giving the Wreckers a 1-0 advantage.
The visitors threatened to widen their lead, but Pastore, who received support defensively from Ashley Zolin, Charlotte Gans and Katie Piotrzkowski, kept it a one-goal game in the first half with several saves off shots from close range.
Erica Fanning, Kirby, Emma Strauss and Ambrose were active inside Greenwich’s circle, generating penalty corners.
“The ball movement coming out of the defense was great,” Tapsall said. “We need to use more give-and-goes and have less crowding in the circle.”
Just 25 seconds into the second half, Staples seized a 2-0 edge. Moving the ball up field in transition, Bloomingdale charged to the cage and snuck a shot from close in by Pastore, giving the Wreckers a 2-0 lead at the 29:35 mark.
Strauss and Ambrose peppered Pastore with shots at the 24:40 mark, while Maya Reiner came close to tallying at the 13:55 mark for the Wreckers. Senior defensive midfielder Hannah Paprotna helped Staples move the ball from the midfield to the forward line.
“We were just talking after the game, saying it was the first game where we played as a team,” said Paprotna, a tri-captain. “This was the first game where we applied everything in practice to the game. Laine and Kyle have been out a little bit, but they are such poised players, they know what to do.”
“Staples played a really strong game and worked as a team,” Zolin said. “We just weren’t playing as a unit, but it’s a good learning experience for our team. We’ll go back and watch the film and learn from this game. Jorja (Pastore) saved us in goal.”
Said Wax: “Staples is a very talented program year after year and we still have a very young team. We’ll bounce back and come out and practice hard tomorrow.”
Staples, which drew 13 penalty corners, hosts Fairfield Ludlowe on Friday. Greenwich visits Stamford on Friday in its first of four straight road games.
“Our give-and-goes and corners are looking a lot better,” Paprotna said. “We’re getting to the ball better and a lot of progress has been made.”