DARIEN -- With just over a week left to play in the regular season, the clash between the Staples and Darien High girls soccer teams on Monday afternoon was on the verge of being a must-win for both squads.
The Wreckers, who entered the match on the outside of the FCIAC playoff picture, did what was needed to help their standing.
A late goal in both halves paved the way for an all-important 2-0 win for the Wreckers, who improved to 3-5-4 on the season.
Darien dominated play for the first 38 minutes, but ultimately had nothing to show for it despite outshooting Staples 8-1 to that point. Suddenly, the Wreckers had the chance they were looking for when they earned a free kick deep in Darien territory. On the kick, Gea Mitas sent her shot at the Darien net, where it was denied at first by goalkeeper Phoebe Taylor. Amelia Heisler, however, was there for the rebound to give the Wreckers a 1-0 lead with just 1:45 left in the half.
"We had a free kick from outside the box. It was a great kick and the goalie tipped it off and I kind of just hit it in with my stomach," Heisler said. "I think it definitely pushed us onward to keep the lead and just to keep going."
Staples head coach Heather Driscoll indicated that her team's ability to withstand Darien's early offensive pressure benefitted her team in the long run, particularly when the Wreckers were able to play with a lead.
"(The late goal) was huge. We came out a little bit flat and to have that right at the end of the half gave us a little bit of a boost," Driscoll said. "I think we were able to relax a little bit, and we were able to stop panicking. Once they started to feel more comfortable, they settled in and started connecting."
Less than eight minutes into the second half, Staples nearly doubled its lead, but a shot ricocheted off the crossbar following a scramble in front of the Darien net.
The Blue Wave's best chance to pull even came on a fast break when Kelly Karczewski sent a centering pass to Vanessa Budd, but Staples goalkeeper Alison Thomson came out of the net to stop Budd's shot. Thomson deflected the ball out of play for a corner kick for one of her eight saves.
With 54 seconds remaining in the contest, Staples' Lauren Garcia wrapped things up with a strong shot into the left corner of the Darien net for the 2-0 advantage.
"That seems (to be) the story of our season. We dominate, and then they get one chance and they take it. It's frustrating," Darien head coach Leigh Parsons said. "You can dominate the games as much as you want, but if you don't score, this is what happens. It was more 50-50 in the second half, and we kind of won the first half. It's tough."
Each team has only four regular season matches remaining and both are well aware that it will take a strong finish--as well as some help by other contending teams--in order to find a way into the FCIAC and state tournaments.
"Every game is a really big game for us now," Heisler said. "We're definitely playing as if it's going to be our last, and we really need each win."
"Every game became a playoff game beginning with this game," Parsons said. "We have four games left. It's time to dig within and see what we're made of."
STAPLES 2, DARIEN 0
STAPLES 1 1--2
DARIEN 0 0--0
Records: Staples 3-5-4; Darien 5-6-1.
Goals: S--Amelia Heisler, Lauren Garcia. Assists: S--Elizabeth Mitas. Goalies: S--Alison Thomson (8 saves); D--Phoebe Taylor (4). Shots: S--8; D--12.