WESTPORT — In all his years of coaching Staples head boys’ soccer coach Dan Woog says this is the first group that immediately wants to go to works on the finer points. And after a game, they find an immediate connection to the teaching.
“After a game they say, ‘That really came from our training session’,” Woog said. “And they really inspire us as coaches. We’re really invested in this group; we want this group to succeed.”
It’s been a season of learning and growing for a young but talented and cohesive unit. As of Tuesday, Staples was 9-2-2 on the season and in second place in the FCIAC West Division.
After graduating a handful of players, including All-American keeper James Hickock, this year’s group knew they’d have to find their own niche.
“We’ve lived a lot on the effort card this year, you know we lost a lot of key pieces last year and we figured talent isn’t going to be our method to our success,” senior captain Jack Scott said. “So we’ve kind of been preaching effort, effort, effort and intensity and tenacity. And it’s gotten us were we are now.”
Where the Wreckers are now is in a good place. The team started 2-0 and then had a hiccup on the season as they fell to Harding, 3-2. Scott labeled that game as wakeup call and a turning point for the team.
“It changed our season,” Scott said. “We weren’t really going down the right path. It showed that we need to go into every game with the right focus no matter who our opponent. Since then we’ve had player meetings, team meetings, it was a good thing honestly. I’m happy it happened. It was a wakeup call and we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”
Since that game Staples has gone 6-2-1, including a six-game win streak. The winning, as Scott put it, comes from a different avenue. Credit that to team chemistry and a natural flow on the field that is hard to find. Scott explained to build that structure it immediately started after last season. Over the summer they had workouts, team building activities and spent time together.
“It starts with the two captains, Jack Scott and Diego Alanis they have created really from last December, an atmosphere of inclusiveness,” Woog said. “They’ve welcomed everyone in; they have made everyone feel a part of something. They have set really high standards for training. They spent a ton of time together off the field. Day by day, week by week, month by month that sort of builds what we have now. You can’t coach chemistry.”
But along with the harmony the Wreckers have established, comes raw talent. Staples have received contributions from numerous individuals. Woog listed Scott and Alanis, as well as Yousef Shahin, Charlie Leonard, defender Andrew Puchala, Michael Reid and sophomore keeper Noah Schwaeber who have all stepped up this season for the Wreckers.
“Noah Schwaeber really came into his role,” Scott said. “Living in James’ shadow is never easy.”
Staples defeated Darien 3-2 on Tuesday and then round out the regular season with Warde, Ludlowe and Westhill. Woog said it’s always a challenge to keep players focused on just the game ahead, but likes the mentality of this group.
“We’re excited,” Scott said. “We want to finish strong and we feel like we can compete with any team.”