Staples field hockey flawless ahead of FCIAC gauntlet
Published 12:25 pm, Saturday, September 24, 2016
WESTPORT — At some point the Staples field hockey team is going to give up a goal this season, maybe as soon as Tuesday's showdown against Class M champion New Canaan.
But, for now, the Wreckers have a goose egg in the goals against column and a 7-0 record and top spot in the Class L standings to show for it.
Staples has blitzed through its early-season schedule, outscoring the opposition 50-0. The 50 goals scored is already eight more than all of last year, when the Wreckers went 10-7-1 and were ousted in the FCIAC and Class L quarterfinals.
Second-year coach Ian Tapsall has raised the bar this year and the results against inferior competition — including some that the Wreckers struggled with in 2015 - are evidence the group has improved.
“I knew going into it we had a great group of girls and we were hoping it was going to be a successful season,” said junior captain Christine Taylor. “Definitely being 7-0 and 50 goals to zero is something I didn’t expect. We have a lot more confidence comparing what we did last year.”
Any shutout streak starts in defense, even if the Wreckers have yet to face adversity. In this case it’s first year starter and sophomore Bridget Mulloy, who stepped in for graduated four-year starter Jodie Baris.
In front of Mulloy, sophomore Elle Fair has been a rock, according to Tapsall. Alexa Moro and Colleen Bannon have also been crucial cogs in defense, along with Taylor, a defensive midfielder.
“There’s been a few corners against us that I think Bridget has coped with really well,” Tapsall said. “Elle at the back has led by example, telling people where to be.”
“Composure, poise and just the safe pass is really what has helped us,” Fair said. “It’s going to be something that defines our defense; our offense has been killing it and our defense has been the support.”
Though the Wreckers have poured in the goals this season, they have come from a variety of places. Gabriela Vega, Abby Najarian and Meghan Johnson are near the top of the crowded leaderboard in goal scored so far.
“The offense is our key,” Tapsall said. “If we keep pressure on people, I think that’s where we do our best. We can probably improve our set pieces; our long corners into the circle.”
Fitness has also played a role in the fast start. The Wreckers spent the previous three months in the gym getting stronger, and arrived in game shape before the season began, Ninty-five percent of the squad passed a sprint-based fitness test.
And then there’s the man on the sideline calling the shots. Tapsall has played the sport his entire life, first in his native England before arriving in the United States. He’s coached the Fairfield County United club team for the past eight years, working with several of the Wreckers in the offseason.
“He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” Taylor said. “He knows the game very well. Since most of us are lacrosse players, he teaches us the system that we all buy into and converts us into field hockey players.”
The preseason is truly over for the Wreckers, though. Starting with the Rams on Tuesday, Staples faces all of the FCIAC heavyweights — Wilton, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Darien and Warde — in the next six games.
“These next few games are going to be completely different, it’s going to be all on the defense,” Fair said. “We’re going to have to come together with composure and poise because these teams have a lot of skill.”
Where the Wreckers stack up in that pecking order remains a mystery, and a question they’re eager to find out the answer to.
“We’ve broken records already in the first half of the season,” Tapsall said. “That being said it was an easier half of the (league); but I think the girls want to know exactly where they stand. I for one and desperate to see what we’ve done in training and if it’s come to the fore.”