Not much had gone right during the Staples field hockey teams' four-game losing streak that included both close and lopsided defeats against some of the toughest teams in the FCIAC.
An improved defensive effort helped the Wreckers snap the skid and almost allow them to make plans for the postseason.
Jenna McNicholas and Elizabeth Bennewitz each scored as Staples returned to the win column with a 2-0 win over Fairfield Ludlowe on Thursday night. One win, or a Norwalk loss, from the final two conference games will clinch a playoff berth.
"This is so important for us," McNicholas said. "We want to qualify for FCIAC's, especially after a couple losses. We came together and showed how we can compete."
Staples (5-6) claimed the win courtesy of a shutdown defensive effort. The Falcons had just four shots and couldn't convert any of their six penalty corners into goals. Wreckers' goalie Jodie Baris made three saves for the shutout.
"We've cleaned up our play on defense; we haven't been giving up a lot of corners," Staples coach Ashley Del Vecchio said. "The defense played great, (Baris) as well."
McNicholas gave the Wreckers the lead less than seven minutes into the game. McNicholas picked up the ball 35 yards away from goal, controlled it all the way to the cage before firing a shot with all her might that was partially blocked but found a way to cross the line.
"We really wanted to get the first goal and I saw the opportunity," McNicholas said. "I pulled up field; I always fall when I shoot because I try to put so much strength and effort into it. I hit it as hard as I could. I was happy it went in."
Ludlowe (6-5-1-1) responded well to the goal and showed flashes of threatening the Staples cage, but the stout defense kept the Falcons at bay.
"Some of the girls had a really strong game and sustained that level of intensity," Ludlowe coach Cathy Hammill said. "It's that consistency that we are working on. Staples had solid stick work; they were great. Our girls weren't able to hold that intensity long enough; it was a good game."
Bennewitz sealed the win with 12:32 left, finishing off a penalty corner with a hard shot from just inside the circle. Bennewitz was all over the field Thursday, frustrating the Ludlowe attack and providing a spark on both sides of the ball.
"(Bennewitz) is in such great shape," Del Vecchio said. "She shows a lot of leadership skills as well as talking on the field. She drives the team to win."
The Falcons have won just one of their last seven games with the playoffs around the corner. Two stern tests against New Canaan and Greenwich await before the postseason.
"Those are two strong teams," Hamill said. "We have things to work on and hopefully we will get there."