Barry Beattie remembers what life was like before Reese Sutter and Mia Gonzalez entered Staples girls’ soccer program.
The Wreckers were coming off a 9-6-1 season — a decent season, but not great. Both Sutter and Gonzalez were contributors as freshmen. The program took off from there.
Staples clinched its second consecutive No. 1 seed in the FCIAC tournament — the state’s best, behind its two Ivy League-bound seniors: Sutter will attend Penn next fall while Gonzalez will go to Cornell. Both will continue their soccer careers.
“On the field, those kids are so dependable, you tell them to do anything and they accept the challenge,” said Beattie, now in his sixth season. “Regardless whether they leave with a trophy or not, those two will leave the program in much better condition than the way they found it.”
Sutter and Gonzalez have helped the Wreckers win 50 regular-season games over the last four seasons. Staples has made two trips to the FCIAC tournament final — falling to St. Joseph in 2017 and then beating the Cadets this season.
Then there are the back-to-back appearances in the last two Class LL state championship games, falling just short to FCIAC-rival Ridgefield each time.
“They are an inspiration for younger kids, role models,” Beattie said.
Sutter and Gonzalez have gone from contributing freshmen to senior leaders — both in their own way.
“I’m more the quiet leader, I stay out of the rah-rah stuff. On the field, I do my thing and motivate the players,” Sutter said. “I think it’s an awesome balance between us. We play good cop, bad cop. We are always very intense (on the field), we know each other’s game really well. Mia is more the cheery type of captain, I kind of like to yell and give correction.”
Then there is that Ivy league education in both players’ futures. Sutter was also looking at look at Virginia, Georgetown and Princeton, before committing to Penn in April of 2017.
“Obviously, I wanted an academic school. I fell in love with the campus, I love my coaches and I knew I wanted to have that balance between academics and athletics,” Sutter said. “I waited a month or two before I committed. I wanted to weigh out all my options, but after awhile, I kind of knew it made sense to go there.”
Living in Philadelphia was also part of the equation. “I never thought I wanted to go to school in the city. I’ve never lived in a city. When I first got there, my parents were a little shocked and kind of overwhelmed,” Sutter said.
Gonzalez committed to Cornell the summer before her junior year.
“I was looking at a couple of other Ivy League schools,” Gonzalez said. “All the girls on our team work really, really hard. To play at a Division I level is truly hard. It’s great we have had people who have played at that level.”
Gonzalez said she wants to major in hotel management.
Former Staples star Lydia Shaw is now at Yale. She has started every game this season for the Bulldogs.
“A lot of our kids target the Ivys to look at,” Beattie said.
Beattie wasn’t sure where to play Gonzalez when she first arrived at Staples, but knew he had to get her on the field somewhere.
“I thought she was an amazing player, but I thought she hadn’t developed physically,” Beattie said. “She played everywhere, left midfielder, right midfielder, striker some games. Mia came back the following year as a sophomore and had grown a little, so we put her in as a central defender.”
Sutter was an All-FCIAC selection as a freshman.
“Sutter gets goals, goals and goals and gets assists, assists, assists,” said Beattie.
While Sutter leads by example, if there is something Beattie needs off the field, he turns to Gonzalez.
“When I’m scheduling practice, I text Mia and she gets in touch with the whole team,” Beattie said. “If there is something to do with a charitable fundraiser, she loves to take on that stuff. She caters to other people and puts others before her.”
Now Sutter and Gonzalez and the rest of the seniors at Staples have that trophy: the Wreckers won the FCIAC championship 1-0 over St. Joseph last Thursday.
“Now, finally, people can start writing stories about these kids being champions and stop reminding them of the finals they lost,” Beattie told Hearst Connecticut Media after the win.
Now, the Ivy League-bound duo will try to get the Wreckers back to the final day of the girls soccer season — and then one more step to the Class LL state championship this time.