WETHERSFIELD — The joy and elation on Staples coach Ian Tapsall’s face as he hugged his assistant coach and watched the clock strike zero was a feeling two years in the making.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Tapsall said after the Wreckers defeated Darien in the Class L final. “What these girls have done from the beginning of the season, preseason training, it takes a little while to get everyone jelling and getting everybody on the right page, buying into what we try to do, and I think they did it perfectly during the last four games and states.”

Staples senior Abby Najarian redirected a shot off the stick of Christine Taylor for the lone goal with 5:55 left in the second half to give Staples the 1-0 win over Darien in a rematch of last season’s Class L final.

“I saw the space in front of me,” Taylor said. “So I took it and got a hit directly and it went towards the right post, then Abby tipped it in for a clean goal. Best thing ever, especially in the time that we had, I knew it would be hard for them to come back.”

The defensive battle between the teams was personified in the effort by both goalkeepers. Darien’s Erica Blaze protected the net for much of the game finishing with seven saves as the Staples offense was unable to cash in on key opportunities until the late goal.

Although, the biggest play of the game belonged to Staples goalkeeper Bridget Mulloy. Darien’s Kendall Wisinski stepped up for a one-on-one opportunity that would have put the Blue Wave in prime position to take control of the game.

But Mulloy made a diving glove save to knock the ball out and keep the score even at 0-0.

“She made a nice save,” Darien coach Maureen Minicus said. “Kendall’s usually money with that. It was glove-side high, but she was our go-to girl today and she gave it her all.”

After playing to a scoreless tie a year ago for a share of the state title, a single goal was going to be the difference between a win and loss and the effort put forth by Blaze was amazing in keeping Darien in the game, Minicus said.

“She grew so much as a goalie this year,” she said. “This is her first time ever playing as a starter in the goal cage and she really took her game to the highest level she possibly could have. I mean that was a great tip from Staples, a well hit ball, and those are the goals you want to score. I’m not sure how much else she could have done.”

It was the connection between two of the veterans of the Wreckers squad that proved to be the difference in the game, but that faith in each other from Najarian and Taylor was something that took time to forge, Tapsall said.

“There has to be a certain communication with the person hitting and the timing of the person going towards the ball,” he said. “That can’t be taught right off the bat. That has to be learned by experience and when you get to know how the ball is going to come and where we’re trying to drop, you see it, it worked to perfection.”

PLAYING WITH A BROKEN HAND

Staples’ Taylor finished the game with a broken right hand after getting hit with the ball off the stick of teammate Ellie Fair. “It was just an adrenaline rush, I kind of knew I did something to it right away, and it was swelling up during the game. But all these emotions came to me and I had no idea I was even still playing. But once we got the glove on the hand, it worked out,” Taylor said about playing with the injury to her right hand.

A SEASON NOT LOST

Despite the results, Darien coach Minicus was proud of the season the Blue Wave put together, getting to a third state championship game in four years. “They just grew tremendously this entire season. We had a soft schedule to start the season, then the second half was really high pressure almost every single game. We had two tough losses in that stretch, but I think it really woke us up and the girls just took their game to a whole new level,” Minicus said about the 2017 Blue Wave team.

QUOTABLE

“It’s the best feeling ever. Senior year, this was my goal to coming out of high school. With the co-champions you kind of don’t know how to react to that last year, it’s great, but to get the full-on win and say you’re the best in the state. It’s a pretty good feeling,” Taylor on completing the early season goal of finishing the season as the lone top team in Class L.

STAPLES 1, DARIEN 0

STAPLES 0 1—1

DARIEN 0 0—0

Records: Staples 12-2-1, Darien 13-3-1. Goals: S—Abby Najarian. Assists: S—Christine Taylor. Goalies: S—Bridget Mulloy (7 saves); D—Erica Blaze (7 saves). Shots— S—8; D—10

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