WESTPORT — It had been about three weeks since the last field hockey matchup between Staples and Wilton. That game saw the Warriors pull out a double overtime victory during the FCIAC quarterfinals. But in the latest edition of the rivalry, the Wreckers got the final say.
Second-half goals from freshman Madelaine Ambrose and senior Meghan Johnson lifted the Wreckers to a 2-1 win in the first round of the Class L state playoffs.
“I still can’t even process what happened,” Ambrose said with a smile. “We’ve played them so many times and every time it’s been so close and now that we actually won, I can’t even process it.”
The teams battled to a scoreless first half, same as during the FCIAC playoffs. But it was Wilton that had used early pressure on the offensive end to get several opportunities at the goal, including a shot that knocked off the post and almost gave the Warriors an early lead.
Both defenses held tough through the opening 44 minutes of the game, but it was Staples that found the back of the net first, when Ambrose took a pass from Ellie Fair and sent a shot over Wilton goalkeeper Megan Kaeyer’s left shoulder for the goal.
Less than two minutes later, Abby Najarian’s pass found Johnson and she scored the second Staples goal.
Wilton co-coaches Toniann Cortina and Liz Pisko both said the quick goals hurt the Warriors, who had played well until that point.
“I think how fast they occurred,” Pisko said. “Especially the second goal, I think our girls were a little caught off guard and we had a harder time getting back to mark up and they popped it in.”
Wilton pulled within one with less than 10 minutes remaining after a Emma Rosen goal — but that would be as close as the Warriors would get.
The game was a big obstacle to overcome after dropping both previous meetings with Wilton earlier in the season, Staples coach Ian Tapsall said.
“We honestly had a bit of a snake pit against Wilton,” he said. “We thought we had to get over this hurdle. Hopefully, they can take it to the next game and keep going. There’s no reason why these guys, if they play properly, why they can’t take it all the way. I’m pretty confident in that.”
NO OVERTIME THIS TIME
It was the first time this season a game between Wilton and Staples finished in regulation. Wilton won both prior meetings with an overtime win during the regular season on Oct. 10 and a victory in the thrilling double-overtime matchup in the FCIAC quarterfinals three weeks ago.
NEXT ON THE BLOCK
Staples advances in the journey to repeat as Class L champions. The No. 7 Wreckers will face the winner of the game between No. 15 Ridgefield and No. 2 Cheshire.
“I think we’re going to go all the way. I think we can make it all the way because that was a really hard game and it gave us a big confidence boost.” — Staples freshman Madelaine Ambrose on how far this team could go in the state playoff run.
STAPLES 2, WILTON 1
Records: Staples 12-2-1, Wilton 11-4-0. Goals: S—Madelaine Ambrose, Meghan Johnson; W—Emma Rosen. Assists: S—Ellie Fair, Abby Najarian; W—Emma Rothkopf . Goalies: S—Bridget Mulloy (2 saves); W—Megan Kaeyer (3 saves). Shots: S—5; W—2.