NORWICH -- Neither a span of 14 days between matches nor a near two-hour bus ride nor the opponent itself proved capable of slowing down the Staples boys soccer team on Friday.
No. 17 Staples put forth a thoroughly dominating performance to open the Class LL state tournament as it scored four goals in the first half of a 6-0 rout of No. 16 Norwich Free Academy.
Senior midfielder Joe Greenwald netted two goals and four different players accounted for the rest of the scoring as Staples showed no ill effects from the unusually long layoff caused by Hurricane Sandy.
"We had not played in 14 days, we didn't train for a week, I had no idea what to expect," Staples coach Dan Woog said. "But the guys came through. They've got a mission. They kept the (shutout), which was really, really important."
The win propelled the Wreckers into a date with top-seeded Norwalk, the FCIAC co-champion, on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Testa Field. The two squads met earlier this season, with the Bears posting a 2-0 victory on Oct. 1.
Greenwald collected a through ball from Greg Shikowitz and pocketed a goal off a breakaway around 10 minutes in to start the scoring barrage, as Staples continuously picked apart NFA's back line.
Senior midfielder Harry Birch scored on a penalty kick just minutes later to push the lead to 2-0, and sophomore forward Jordan McNair made it 3-0, beating the keeper far post in the late stages of the half.
"They looked a bit disorganized and we pressed. We pushed up and pressed," Woog said. "That's what we tried to do a lot and today it worked really well."
Staples' lead grew to 4-0 heading into halftime on sophomore Nathaniel Argosh's tally, and the Wreckers held a commanding 10-3 edge in shots at the break.
"We absolutely trust our defense. We knew we'd have to pressure them high today," Greenwald said. "They tried to play in the back and we kind of took it from them in their own half."
The Wreckers were equally dominant on defense as they rarely allowed NFA (9-4-2) to push the ball past midfield. Playing on grass -- a surface they're used to with their home matches at Loeffler Field -- and in windy conditions, the Wreckers controlled possession from start to finish.
"It's not easy to do on a field like this," Woog said. "That's what I was especially pleased with. These were tough conditions."
"This is a very familiar turf," Greenwald added. "We like playing on grass. We like playing in the wind."
Staples added to its collection of goals in the second half as Greenwald notched his second off an assist from junior Diego Alanis early to make it 5-0. Senior forward Noah Bender capped the scoring off a set piece.
Senior goalkeeper James Hickok made two saves, while freshman Noah Schwaeber recorded one while playing most of the second half. It was the Wreckers' ninth shutout this season.
email@example.com; 203-255-4561 ext. 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour
No. 17 STAPLES 6, No. 16 NORWICH FREE ACADEMY 0
STAPLES 4 2--6
NFA 0 0--0
Records: Staples 11-5-2; NFA 9-4-2.
Goals: S--Joe Greenwald 2, Harry Birch, Jordan McNair, Nathaniel Argosh, Noah Bender. Assists: S--Greg Shikowitz, Jack Scott, Joseph Pravder, Diego Alanis. Goalies: S--James Hickok (2 saves), Noah Schwaeber (1). NFA--Jeremy Laferriere (2), Carl Chancy (3). Shots: S--16; NFA--5.