At times, the play wasn't as crisp as the two boys soccer coaches with relatively untested squads had hoped. But for Staples, which graduated 12 seniors off last season, it was good enough -- at least for the first match.
Locked scoreless with Danbury for more than 26 minutes on Tuesday, Staples ironed out some opening-day jitters, left behind a few opportunities gone bad and ultimately earned three early points.
Joe Pravder and Andrew Puchala netted goals 13 minutes apart before halftime to spur Staples to a 2-0 win over Danbury at Loeffler Field.
The Wreckers started off slow with play mainly around the midfield, but their chances soon piled up. They registered eight of a match-high 12 shots in the first half, scoring twice off crosses.
Pravder put the Wreckers ahead 1-0 with 13:47 left in the first half when he headed a ball through a crowd off a volley from Graham Gudis. The goal allowed the Wreckers to settle in and control the pace after an inconsistent start.
"(The match) could've gone either way, but once I got that goal, we were able to settle the game down and get another goal," said Pravder, a sophomore.
Clinging to a one-goal advantage, Puchala doubled the Wreckers' lead 1:03 before halftime when he booted in a corner taken by Gudis. That was more than enough offensive support for the Wreckers, who limited Danbury to just two shots in the second half.
Staples coach Dan Woog was pleased to earn three early-season points, although he expects more well-rounded performances from his team down the line.
"Communication was not what we would like it to be; the chemistry certainly (was)," Woog said. "This is a group that likes each other, that's played a lot together in the offseason. For the first game, we'll take it."
The coach continued, jokingly saying, "If this was the end of the season, I'd be tearing out what's left of my hair."
Danbury coach Sean Colley, meanwhile, was disappointed in his team's play, noting that it didn't resemble the Hatters' sharp performances from the preseason.
"That felt like a first game where we replaced seven starters from last year," Colley said. "We scrimmaged really well, so I'm disheartened."
Danbury recorded three quick shots in the opening half, but didn't have much luck navigating through Staples' back line. Staples sophomore Noah Schwaeber was solid in his first start in goal, stopping two shots while punching aside three early corner kicks.
"(I had) a little jitters in the beginning. They were coming at me," Schwaeber said. "But we did a great job defensively, especially in the second half."
"He's stepping in some big shoes," Woog said of the sophomore. "He's well-positioned, he handled 99 percent of the balls cleanly. We've got three years with him and we're looking forward to it."
While Woog envisions a bright future for his goalkeeper and the rest of his squad, he was able to relish the present on Tuesday. Staples cracked into the win column on its first try, something it failed to do last season when it relinquished a second-half lead to Ridgefield and lost 2-1.
"This is far better," he said.
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour
DANBURY 0 0 -- 0
STAPLES 2 0 -- 2
Records: Danbury 0-1; Staples 1-0.
Goals: S -- Joe Pravder, Andrew Puchala. Assists: S -- Graham Gudis. Goalies: D -- Ian Shannon (4 saves); S -- Noah Schwaeber (2 saves). Shots: D -- 5; S -- 12. Corner kicks: D -- 3; S -- 5.