WESTPORT — Sometimes, no matter how good you are, it pays to be a little bit lucky.
Nearly 60 minutes into a scoreless battle with Ludlowe, the Staples girls’ soccer team was feeling a little snake-bit. Over a half-dozen solid scoring opportunities in the first half came up empty and the Wreckers had to be wondering what it was going to take to finally get on the scoreboard.
A fluke goal did the trick.
Ashley Wright’s 30-yarder from the middle of the field somehow got through the hands of Falcons’ keeper Maddie Herron with 22:43 to play and Staples added a pair of late goals to come away with a 3-0 victory on a rainy Saturday morning at the Wreckers field.
“I actually sighed, I was like, ‘thank you so much,’” Marlo Von der Ahe said, who’s goal with 7:55 to play gave Staples a 2-0 lead. “Because I knew after that, I knew we would start scoring again. But up until that point, it had been frustrating because we had had a lot of chances.”
Especially Von der Ahe. In the first 15 minutes alone, the junior striker hit the post, put two shots just wide and boomed another into the chest of Herron, who was spectacular the entire game, making nine saves.
“It was very frustrating in the opening minutes because I was getting so many chances … chance after chance and I couldn’t connect,” Von der Ahe said. “My coaches kept telling me to keep my head up and have short term memory, just forget it and keep playing. I did that and finally got one.”
With Herron stoning the Wreckers every chance she got, the game went to halftime deadlocked at 0-0.
“Maddie played well. She definitely is a leader back there,” Ludlowe coach Peter Nikac said. “She’s been getting a lot of shots on goal and she’s been responding really well.”
Early in the second half, Ludlowe had a chance to find some magic off a direct kick when a Falcons’ player was put down just outside the Staples’ box. But McKenna Forrest’s shot was blocked by the Wreckers’ wall.
The game continued back and forth until Wright’s long blast made it 1-0. With just under eight minutes left, Von de Ahe took a cross from Ana Simunovic and deflected the ball past Herron, who had no chance, to make it 2-0. A minute later, Wright fed Sophie Mulhern, who made it 3-0.
“We’ve been working a lot lately on the forward movement,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “I think what we saw today that it’s actually starting to work. We weren’t doing anything wrong in the first half, we were striking the ball clean, we were just missing the target. A little bit frustrating but the players were playing well. The message at halftime was just keep doing what you’re doing.”
The win kept Staples (11-0-3) in first place in the FCIAC playoffs standings, clinching a postseason spot. Ludlowe fell to 5-6-1, still on the outside looking in for a place in the top eight with four games to play.
“It’s on to the next game, we have a big week coming up,” Nikac said. “We need to move forward. If we keep playing like this, we’ll be OK. The girls really stepped up today. After that first half, their confidence grew, and they realized that they could take advantage of certain weaknesses that they had. Unfortunately, that goal set us back. It happens.”
STAPLES 3, LUDLOWE 0
LUDLOWE 0 0—0
STAPLES 0 3—3
Records: Ludlowe (5-6-1, 5-6-1 FCIAC); Staples (11-0-3, 11-0-3 FCIAC)
Goals: S – Ashley Wright, Marlo Von der Ahe, Sophie Mulhern Assists: S – Wright, Ava Simunovic Shots: L – 2; S – 14 Saves: L – Maddie Herron (9); S – Zoe Barnett (2)