WESTON — The Staples and Darien field hockey teams will play for a championship this weekend.
If that sounds familiar, there’s good reason. The two FCIAC powers have clashed for no fewer than four state or conference titles since 2016, including this year’s scoreless duel in the league final.
The Wreckers finalized the latest match-up with Darien when they scored three times in the second half and shut out Norwalk, 3-0, in the CIAC Class L semifinals Tuesday night at Weston High School.
Darien had already beaten Ridgefield, 4-1, earlier in the evening.
“It becomes a coaching match,” Staples coach Ian Tapsall said of facing Darien. “The players on each side are equally matched in all departments, and it just comes down to coaching, effort, and a lucky bounce. We’ll see what happens but it’s going to be a great game, that’s for sure.”
No. 3 Darien and No. 4 Staples, both armed with 20-1-1-0 records, will play for the CIAC Class L championship on Saturday in Wethersfield at a time to be determined.
It’s the third time in the past four years that the two teams will play in the Class L final. Staples and Darien were co-champs after a 0-0 tie in 2016 and the Wreckers won 1-0 in 2017. Last year, they clashed in the state semis, with the Wreckers winning 2-1 in overtime, before topping Cheshire 2-0 in the final.
Reaching the state finals is certainly familiar to Staples’ seniors Kyle Kirby and Grace Cooper, who have been on the team since their freshman year.
“It feels awesome,” said Kirby, who had a goal and two assists. “This is my fourth time (in the final) and I’ve never played in a season where we didn’t play on the last day we could possibly play. That’s something we’re all fortunate for, especially me and Grace Cooper, who have been on the team throughout that whole reign.”
No. 9 Norwalk (15-5-0-0) delivered a strong defensive performance against a Staples team which had scored 11 goals in the first two playoff rounds. Goalie Sophia Talyanides made five saves, and backs Jackie Cota, Jordan Hogan and Sara Spielman were solid throughout.
“It was a good game and we knew what we had coming in,” Norwalk coach Kyle Seaburg said. “We’ve played them before, we’ve watched them play and they’re a great team. We stuck to our game plan and we executed that well. We just had a couple of letdowns and if you do that against a quality team, they’re going to make you pay.”
After a scoreless first half, Staples struck quickly in the second as Kirby slipped a pass into the circle for Julia DiConza, who slapped it home with 24:24 to play.
Maya Reiner made it 2-0 with 12:40 remaining, with Kirby again assisting, and Kirby then closed it out with the final goal, assisted by Ella Bloomingdale, with 2:15 to play.
Despite being shutout in the first half, the persistent Wreckers were happy with the offensive pressure.
“It’s shot selection and poise in the circle,” Tapsall said. “You’ve just got to keep plugging away and plugging away. It’s exactly the same thing as Cheshire in the finals of the states last year.”
Now, Staples can devote all its attention to yet another game against Darien.
“We definitely know each other better,” Kirby said. “There are situations that we didn’t really capitalize on in the Darien game (a 0-0 tie), which we’ve practiced over the last two weeks. I think we’re definitely way more prepared this time, and we have a couple of days to get ready.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Kyle Kirby, Staples. The senior had a hand in all three of the Wreckers’ goals, assisting on the first two and scoring the third. In the past two playoff games, Kirby has three goals and three assists.
“We never talk about winning or losing, we talk about effort and we won in that regard. They gave everything they had. You’ve obviously got to tip your cap to Staples, but I’m proud of my girls and the way they played.” — Norwalk coach Kyle Seaburg