Proof of how far the Staples girls lacrosse team has come was illustrated on Tuesday in a 20-7 home victory over Fairfield Warde.

Staples raised its record to 4-1 and proof of how it reversed its fortunes against Warde (3-4) is that it accumulated a 10-goal lead in the second half, forcing the game to running time. When the teams squared away from 2002-07, games ended in running time but that's because the Mustangs had the 10-goal lead, not the Westporters (Staples won last year's game by one goal, which was scored in the waning seconds and the teams split two games in 2008).

"We definitely improved and we're now able to beat Warde," Lady Wreckers Coach Cathy Schager said. "The girls worked hard in the offseason. We have wonderful leadership from the seniors and we have good underclassmen as well. We practice things and it works in games. I'm blessed to have an amazing group of girls. They are well-spirited and a lot of fun to coach."

Staples senior captain Kat Krieger said, "Today was the first time we had a chance to prove how strong we are in the FCIAC. This was a definitive win."

The Lady Wreckers controlled play from the start and outshot the Mustangs, 40-20. Staples took a 1-0 lead 2:37 into the game on sophomore Remy Nolan's goal from junior Nikki Seo. Warde came back and tied it at 3:51 on junior Taylor Bargmann's (four goals, one assist, three interceptions) goal off a feed from classmate Sam Sheetz. The tie lasted less than three minutes as Seo gave the Lady Wreckers the lead for good, 2-1, off an 8-meter free shot.

After Seo's go-ahead goal, Staples took control, starting by winning the majority of the draws and ground balls with sophomore Maeve Flaherty winning most of the draws.

"My teammates and my height helped me get the ball," Flaherty, who is 5-10, said.

Seo (four goals, eight assists, three ground balls) deftly set up the offense set up Flaherty (six goals, one assist, four draw controls, three positive turnovers, four ground balls), Jessie Ambrose (five goals, one ground ball, four positive turnovers) and Adele Mackey (two goals, three ground balls, one positive turnover) in prime position which gave the Lady Wreckers a 6-2 lead.

"I'm confident in their skill level and it's a matter of finding the open player," Seo said. "Practice and playing with each other helps. Maeve is usually open in the middle and Jessie usually comes down the side. It's a matter of keeping my eyes open."

Schager said, "Nikki has really come through for us this year and has stepped up as a leader."

Flaherty was dominant in front of the net and made it look easy.

"Nikki Seo did a good job of finding me and we worked well together," Flaherty said. "I've been working on my shot a lot and after hitting the goalie a few times, I saw her weak spot and found the net."

Ambrose, who began playing lacrosse freshman year, showed she's a natural athlete. She juked past opponents and scored a few breakaway goals on her own as well.

"A lot of times, my teammates set me up well for the goal," Ambrose said. "We do a lot of shooting drills in practice and during games, it comes down to muscle memory."

Junior Elizabeth Driscoll (two goals, one assist, one ground ball, one positive turnover) also contributed on offense and had an important goal from Flaherty.

"Our team has good verbal and non-verbal communication," Driscoll said. "We have good connections and look for each other. You put it where the goalie isn't."

Mackey also made a difference on offense. Seo was also adept at finding the net from point blank range.

"All of them came from being in the right place at the right time," Seo said. "They were nice plays that were set up."

Lady Mustang senior captain goalie Hannah Silver (14 saves) prevented the game from being a total blowout.

Warde didn't have any multi-scoring streaks in the first half. Although the Mustangs had a chance to have this streak, Staples junior goalie Penny Tsilfides (seven saves) made a save and the Lady Wreckers scored a transition goal. They added three more goals to go up 10-3 with 3:25 remaining in the half.

The Mustangs cut it to 10-4 at the half when junior Alex Kelly (three goals, three interceptions) interceptied a pass at midfield and ran in for a goal with 12 seconds left.

Staples continued its strong play in the second half and extended its lead to nine, 14-5 7:59 into the second half. The Lady Wreckers weren't able to make it a 10-goal game right away as Warde scored twice to make it 14-7 9:28 into the second half and had a chance for a three-goal rally but Staples sophomore Remy Nolan (one goal, two assists, four ground balls, two positive turnovers, three draw controls) stole the ball and pushed it into the attack zone.

This led to Seo setting up a Flaherty goal to make it 15-7 and reclaim the momentum for the Lady Wreckers. Seo added a goal and with 8:05 to go in the game, Flaherty scored to make it 17-7 and with the margin reaching 10, the teams played running time for the duration of the game.

Staples was explosive on offense but it started with its defense. Krieger (five ground balls, three draw controls, three positive turnovers, one interception) spearheaded the backfield and set the tone. Senior captain Lexa Koenig (three positive turnovers, four ground balls), classmate Jess Leskin (three positive turnovers, two ground balls), junior Kelley Hussey (one positive turnover) and sophomore Kenzie Roof (two ground balls, one positive turnover) complemented Krieger. Leskin stripped the Mustangs a few times in the first half.

"We just wanted it more, we were the stronger team and we had to prove it," Krieger said.

Ambrose also made her presence felt on defense.

"They turned it over when we applied lot's of pressure," Ambrose said.

Juniors Sam Hardy (one assist, one ground ball, one positive turnover), Ella Hirten (one ground ball, one positive turnover) and Erica Gendell (one positive turnover) also contributed.

"Staples is a good team and they were consistent on offense and defense," Warde Coach Tom Davis said.