eschickler@bcnnew.com

Although the Staples field hockey team didn't go far in the Class L tournament, it has a lot to celebrate. One, it made the Class L and FCIAC tournament in a rebuilding year and early in the season, when it was 1-5-1, it looked like it was going to miss both tournaments. Two, Staples gained experience with many sophomores and juniors in the lineup and three, it's a well-coached squad.

"I'm thrilled and I think it's a great confidence booster for the team," said Lady Wreckers coach Cecily Cowburn. "Our schedule was stacked with top teams in the beginning. We played great games every game and improved as the season progressed."

Staples ended its season at 6-10-1-1 in a 1-0 loss at fourth-seeded New Milford in the first round of the Class L tournament Nov. 11. The 20th-seeded Lady Wreckers won a playoff game by dispatching 13th-seeded Fairfield Ludlowe in the qualifying round.

"It was a really frustrating game and took us awhile to realize the surface is unpredictable," said Cowburn. "It caused us to play conservatively."

New Milford plays on a grass surface, which made it difficult for Staples, who plays almost all of its games on turf.

"No one is used to the grass surface," said Lady Wreckers senior captain Amanda Stewart. "You can't push the ball on grass because it doesn't go anywhere. Everything has to be big hits on grass."

Stewart led Staples ooffense and had most of its opportunities against New Milford.

"I really wanted to win this game and even though we were the 20th seed, I wanted to prove we were better than them," said Stewart.

Having too much energy may have also hurt the Lady Wreckers.

"Sometime, when you want it very badly, your skills fall apart," said Cowburn. "You have to keep your head on straight."

Senior Venetia Stanley and junior Erica Gendell played well defensively for Staples. Lady Wrecker junior goalie Jen Hoets made 12 saves.

Going in, Staples knew it was going to be a rebuilding year after losing many top players to graduating, including All-Stater Brooke Donovan, who is playing for Dennison College, and Second Team All-FCIAC selection Sarah McNee, who is playing for Kenyon College. The Lady Wreckers were also hampered by the loss of current junior Nikki Seo, who was a Second Team All-FCIAC selection but quit the sport to focus solely on lacrosse.

"I think we had a slow start but we came together as a team," said senior captain Kat Strage. "One of our goals was to make FCIACs and States and we're happy to achieve it."

Senior captain Lucy Goss said, "I'm very happy with how the season went. We came together as a team and had a lot of fun. Even though our record wasn't as good as last year's, it was a transition year and a good year. It's tough losing good players but we achieved what we wanted to."

Stewart said, "Even though we lost a lot of seniors, our team put in the effort. In the end, you could see how much we wanted it and that we grew as a team."

Cowburn, who took over as coach from Sandi Guinane, got the most out of her team.

"Cecily deserves a lot of credit for not giving up and getting us going," said Stewart. She was always positive, kept our spirits up and encouraged us to do better. It's good to have a coach you are not afraid to give suggestions to and who you can communicate with."

Many sophomores from then-freshman coach Cowburn's undefeated team had prominent roles on the team. Their play, combined with the juniors, give Staples hope for the future.

"I think we're going to be strong," said Goss. "There will be a lot of seniors, they have good leadership and they will do well."

Strage said, "The team definitely has the potential and by the time they walk onto the field next year, they will do some amazing things."

Stewart said, "We have a lot of strong players on JV and we should be just as strong, if not stronger, next year."

Because of the team's inexperience, offense or the lack thereof, was a problem this year. The Lady Wreckers scored only 14 goals all year with sophomore Misha Strage leading the way with five. The younger Strage had two assists and seven points. Stewart had four goals and senior Cecily Doonan had two goals and one assist for three points. Katya Strage had a goal and led the team in assists with three, finishing with four points. Sophomore Callie Hiner had a goal and an assist for two points and senior Jessica Davis had a goal.

Junior Liz Driscoll led the defense all year. Hoets made 149 saves and allowed 34 goals, ending the year with a .809 save percentage. Many players received votes for Most Improved Player on the team.

"We had a lot of sophomores step up and become key players," said Cowburn. "They became more familiar with my coaching style. It's not about one person. We're looking to rebuild for the next couple of years and I hope to be in the FCIAC finals in a couple of years."