Wreckers hope to repeat as champs
Just about every time Staples head soccer coach Dan Woog ponders the prospect of repeating as state champions, the same thing invariably happens. "A huge smile breaks out across my face," said Woog, whose Wrecker squad captured both the FCIAC and State Championships in 2009 with an overall record of 22-2-0.
The smile is not from overconfidence but from the fact that last year's team gave Woog his first state championship as head coach and the 12th in Staples history. He also smiles because he has an experienced and balanced squad returning which wants to capitalize on the success of their predecessors. "I really love these guys," Woog continued. "This team knows how hard it is to defend, that one year's success is no guarantee."
The current Wrecker team lost six top players to graduation -- Mike McCarthy, Jack Hennessy, Mikey Fitzgerald, Alan Reiter, Mike White and Andrew McNair. What's important to remember is that these six played the center of the field, up and down, and were the spine of a solid Wreckers team. Most high school teams couldn't rebound from such a crucial departure of talent. The storied Staples program, however, has a deep well of talent each year and this squad is no different. Four of the seniors on this team played together as freshman on a team that went 7-7-2. "They've grown so amazingly well in strength and speed and emotionally," Woog said. "The attitude they bring to the field everyday is amazing. This group is so competitive on and off the field. It's exciting."
Leading the 2010 team are senior captains Frankie Bergonzi, Brendan Lesch and Sean Gallagher and a better group of leaders would be tough to find. Bergonzi, who will also captain the 2010 Wrecker basketball team, has "vastly improved his skills in the off season," said Woog. Playing Beachside soccer this summer, Bergonzi worked hard to improve his weaknesses and has become a "great outside defender," according to his coach. Frankie will attend Colgate University next year.
Gallagher is also a top defender and he is expected to take over defensive leadership from the graduated Hennessy. "Sean has tremendous instincts on the field," said Woog and befitting a young man who will attend the Naval Academy upon graduation, "great leadership skills." Woog added that if Gallagher plays in goal this year, he will have played all 11positions on the team in his career.
Lesch is a returning All-New England selection and the third captain. A graceful and smooth player, he has tremendous vision. He plays every minute hard and tough. Woog said, "Brendan worked hard on strengthening his weaker left foot over the summer and is now shooting with conviction with his left foot." Lesch will be playing for Notre Dame after graduation.
Rounding out a powerful Wrecker starting team will be last year's leading scorer, senior Greg Gudis. A versatile offensive player, Gudis always gives 100 percent on the field and, according to Woog, "has an instinctive nose for the goal. Last year, he scored some magical goals for us." Gudis has also worked hard in the off season to be stronger and quicker and an even more potent scorer. He plans to attend Columbia University next year.
Another senior who played a big role in last year's run to the championship and has also improved his strength and talents in the off season is Mikey Scott. Known statewide for his powerful and accurate throw-ins, Scott ranges far and wide and delivers for his team time and time again. He excites the fans on the top of the hill every game. Yet another senior who will contribute mightily this season is Steve Denowitz, a sometime starter last year. Denowitz is very powerful physically and owns a dynamic defensive header. He is projected to be the center of the defense for the Wreckers this season. Last year's 12th man is senior Jake Krossy who Woog called "sly and crafty." A midfielder and a defenseman, Krossy brings a deceptive and versatile game to the field. Fans and opponents alike cannot help but be impressed. Along side will be another talented senior, Court Lake. A left-sided player, Lake is adept on both offense and defense and has a powerful left foot.
The competition to replace departed goalkeeper Michael McCarthy is between two experienced and hard working teammates, senior Connor Walsh and sophomore James Hickok. Injured in 2009, Walsh has added quickness and courage to his game in the net according to goalkeeper coach, Tom Henske. "Connor is a great story of perseverance and he has won the confidence of his teammates for his extra effort." Hickok in turn is currently out with a stress fracture but vows to return in better shape than ever.
The competition this year will be tougher than ever with Staples playing every match with a target on its backs. "We will be everyone's big game," said Woog. This year's September schedule will be tougher than in previous years for the Wreckers.
In the FCIAC, Woog feels Norwalk will be excellent. "They're well coached; great athletes; and a strong cross-town rivalry." And the regulars -- Greenwich, Westhill, Trumbull and Ridgefield -- will be tough, as well as Brookfield, Central and Newtown. Woog feels "There can't be a let down in Connecticut soccer anymore."