As a three-time reigning state champion, the Staples field hockey team is accustomed to bringing out the best in opponents.
“Everybody wants to beat us really badly,” said Staples coach Ian Tapsall. “So I go into each game with the intention of making sure we get to every 50-50 ball first.”
Even though Tapsall didn’t think his team did enough of that in Friday’s road game against Wilton, the Wreckers were still able to register a 3-1 victory — their 13th win in a row.
Staples (14-1-0-0) scored all three of its goals in the first half — including two in the final three-and-a-half minutes — to open a 3-0 lead at the break. Wilton got one goal back midway through the second half but couldn’t get closer.
“I thought it was a pretty even game as far as chances,” said first-year Wilton coach Mike Pallister, whose team fell to 11-3-0-1 going into the regular-season finale next Tuesday against Darien. “It’s just that they were very efficient in the first half, and it’s hard enough to come behind from one or two down, let alone three.”
Two of Staples’ three goals followed penalty corners, with the other coming off a textbook transition play after a Wilton corner.
“We rely on our set pieces, and we got goals from them,” Tapsall said.
Staples went ahead early, as defender Erica Fanning moved forward for a corner and converted off a scramble in front of the Wilton goal just four minutes into the game.
Following a stretch of 25-plus scoreless minutes, the Wreckers added two goals in a span of 74 seconds. The first of those was exceptional: Staples created a turnover off a Wilton corner and moved the ball swiftly down the field, leading to Laine Ambrose’s goal with 3:29 left in the half.
“That’s what you play for because you know you’ve got an overload from there,” Tapsall said. “So you know you should have a chance of scoring.”
“They did a good job getting a stick to the corner, and then obviously were pretty athletic enough to go 80 yards end-to-end,” said Pallister. “You commit eight (players) to the circle and that’s something that can happen.”
Just over a minute later, Hannah Paprotna scored to put Staples ahead 3-0 at halftime.
Led by Boston College-bound midfielder Olivia Hahn, Wilton applied more pressure at the start of the second half. Charlotte Casiraghi forced Staples goalie Roxanne Augeri to make a kick save; Fanning blocked a pass that would have left Sammie Slough with an open shot; and Maisie Dembski broke up a pass before Olivia Waldron could get the ball in front of the Wreckers’ cage.
Hahn then took matters into her own hands, blasting a shot from the right side into the Staples net and cutting Wilton’s deficit to 3-1 with 17:04 remaining in the game.
After a few more minutes of Wilton pressure, Staples was able to produce the better chances in the final 10 minutes, with Wilton goalie Megan Kaeyer making a kick save and then a sprawling stop to keep the Wreckers from adding to their lead.
While Tapsall was pleased with the Wreckers’ performance, he did notice one blemish.
“I think we’ve got to play more as a team,” he said. “I don’t like too much individual effort getting in the way of other players. We have to have a lot more faith in what the players around us can do; they can take care of their jobs.”
Pallister, meanwhile, thought his team turned in another encouraging effort.
“Against Greenwich (a 2-0 win on Wednesday), I thought we sort of turned the corner there and competed really well,” Pallister said. “And we competed well again tonight against an obviously very strong Staples team.”