WESTPORT -- Considering the desperation facing the Staples High girls soccer team Wednesday, the Wreckers' opponent, Westhill, which was clinging to a one-goal lead, prepared to batten down the hatches as the second half began.
"We guessed they would come out like that," Westhill head coach Dave Flower said, referring to the relentless onslaught the Wreckers inflicted on the Vikings during the first 20 minutes of the second half.
But thanks to Westhill goalkeeper Zhenna Stewart, the Vikings withstood the attack and added a late goal to post a 2-0 FCIAC victory. Staples, badly needing a victory, had nine shots on goal in those 20 minutes, virtually all of which were legitimate scoring chances.
Unfortunately for the Wreckers, all those chances came up empty.
"It was very frustrating," Staples head coach Heather Driscoll said. "(Stewart) really came up big for them. She made some big saves."
The sophomore Stewart (12 saves) snuffed out several scoring attempts by Olivia Gerrard, Paige Murray, Siri Andrews and Ryan Kirshner in that 20-minute span as the Vikings posted a critical victory. Westhill (7-5-2) began the day one point ahead of Wilton for the eighth and final FCIAC playoff spot, and six ahead of Staples (3-6-5).
"Zhenna has been fantastic for us this year," Flower said. "She got some time on the field last year and when we needed a goalie this season she stepped up and worked hard. She has been so solid for us. She made a lot of nice saves today."
Staples could have had three or four goals during the attack but Stewart turned the Wreckers away to make the first-half goal scored by CC Bingham stand up. Later, with just 1:18 remaining in the contest, after the frustrated Wreckers appeared to run out of steam, Jess Blasnik tallied for the Vikings to complete the scoring. The goals by Bingham and Blasnik were timely considering how well the Wreckers bottled up Westhill's leading scorer Jess Laszlo.
The Wreckers now probably need to win out in order to have a shot at the FCIAC playoffs. They have an opportunity because they finish up with Trinity, New Canaan and McMahon, and only New Canaan (seventh place as of yesterday) was in contention. Westhill, meanwhile, must face No. 1 Warde, No. 3 Greenwich and Norwalk.
"This was a very important win for us," Flower said after the Vikings ended their two-game losing streak. "We needed to turn the tide and these three points (for the win) will really help."
"We're still in the mix," Driscoll added. "It would have been a huge win but it doesn't kill us."
Staples goalkeeper Mary Bennewitz finished with five saves.
Emery Filmer is a freelance writer
WESTHILL 2, STAPLES 0
WESTHILL 1 1--2
STAPLES 0 0--0
Records: Westhill 7-5-2, Staples 3-6-5.