WETHERSFIELD—For the Staples field hockey program, there is no place more beautiful than Wethersfield in late November.
The Wreckers captured their fourth consecutive Class L field hockey state championship Saturday by defeating Darien, 4-2 at Wethersfield High School’s Joe Cottone Field.
“To win four straight state championships is an amazing feeling,” said Staples senior tri-captain Hannah Paprotna. “Everybody on this team worked so hard for this. One of our team mottos is ‘Championships are won when nobody is watching in the weight room.’ Considering everybody’s work ethic, making this fourth title a reality is awesome.”
Indeed. In the five-year tenure of Staples coach Ian Tapsall, the Wreckers conquered Cheshire 2-0 in the 2018 Class L final. They beat Darien 1-0 in 2017. And they were co-champion with Darien in 2016 after a hard-fought tie.
The script for Saturday’s title was a little different than the previous Staples-Darien meetings this 2019 campaign.
— Chris Fanning (@chrismfanning) November 23, 2019
Darien won 3-1 back on Sept. 18 in the second game of the regular season. The rivals tied 0-0 and were declared co-champions in the 2019 FCIAC Championship final.
On Saturday, No. 4 ranked Staples (21-1-1 overall) pressured No. 3 seed Darien (20-2-1) all over the field for 60 minutes to secure the victory. At times, it seemed like Staples had 20 players on the field against Darien’s 11.
And Staples made a plethora of fast break, breakout passes to key its transition attack. Darien faced going the long field all afternoon long.
The statistics that didn’t lie included Darien senior goalie Monisha Akula registering 13 saves to just two saves for Staples senior goalie Roxanne Augeri. Staples also had nine penalty corners to just two for Darien.
“We kept the pressure up. We got Darien a bit on their heels,” said Staples senior tri-captain Kyle Kirby, who probably should have been credited with two goals but game officials never checked to possibly make changes. “We are so fast. Our speed is our best asset. The key is getting the ball out quickly and far.”
There were three goals scored in the final 6:43 to give Staples a 3-2 halftime edge.
Kirby scored with 6:43 left as the officials let play continue as opposed to giving coach Tapsall the timeout he was screaming for.
Darien senior Molly Hellman tallied her second goal of the day off a penalty corner with 4:48 left for a 2-2 tie.
Staples’ Erica Fanning answered just 3:18 before intermission for a 3-2 Wreckers’ edge.
“I don’t know how much we changed our plan today,” Staples coach Tapsall said. “We just finished our plays better today.”
Staples senior Ellas Bloomingdale tallied with 18:19 left to play to give the Wreckers breathing room at 4-2.
Darien’s offense didn’t open up the field in the second half and each Blue Wave player was trying to score the two needed goals themselves rather than working collectively.
“I was so proud of our fight. At 2-2, Staples’ last two goals came on tip-ins. That was deflating,” said Darien’s veteran coach Mo Minicus as the Blue Wave was unable to secure their 11th state championship title. “It was a battle of two very good teams. Staples had more fire. Our offense didn’t get untracked until the last eight minutes.
“Only one team can win these special games. Staples played a little better than we did,” Minicus continued. “Ian (Tapsall) has done a great job in his (five-year) tenure. He’s got their program to a very high level quickly. It’s always a battle when our teams meet.”
It is a mutual admiration society between the Lady Wreckers and their coach.
“We train a lot. But coach Tapsall brings so much experience from all over the world. It’s been a blessing for us,” said Staples tri-captain Paprotna. “Coach gives us amazing advice on and off the field.”
“For the girls, four consecutive Class L state titles mean everything,” Staples Tapsall said. “For me, four titles means seeing the smiles on the girls’ faces. We started last August and their dedication has been tremendous. I just give them the plan.”