By Dave Ruden

dave.ruden@scni.com

Though the Staples boys soccer program is one of the most renowned in the state, coach Dan Woog said there have been no secret ingredients for success.

"We love our defense and hope to convert at least one of the chances we get," Woog said. "That has been the foundation of Staples soccer for a long time."

Following that template, Ben Root scored in the 5th minute and the Wreckers, despite numerous chances to build on the lead, made the goal stand up to come away with a 1-0 victory at home against Ridgefield on Wednesday in what will be looked back upon as one of the most entertaining games of the season.

The beginning and conclusion of the contest were played in a driving rain, though the players on both sides did an admirable job of adjusting to the elements.

"It was fun, especially considering the conditions," Woog said. "These were not easy conditions to play in for either team. We had to work mentally and physically, and Ridgefield has nothing to be ashamed of."

Despite the loss of a number of starters, the Wreckers, the two-time defending league champions, have used a group of upperclassmen that compensate with chemistry for what they lack in experience to get off to an impressive 5-0 start.

"Honestly, I'm not surprised by what we've done," said Jake Malowitz, a defender and one of the team's co-captains. "We have a group of seniors that have played together for a long time. It's a strong group and we have the highest hopes for the season."

Ridgefield, which started four sophomores and has been without one of its top forwards, Kent Coleman, and sweeper Nathan Boytos since the start of the season, rallied after being outplayed in the first half. Goalkeeper Kyle Gurtowski was outstanding, stopping 12 shots, many with a high degree of difficulty, to keep the Tigers (2-3-1) in the game.

"I think we did come in with a little intimidation and I don't know how to get them over it. There is a thing about playing Staples," said Phil Bergen, the Tigers' coach. "If it wasn't for our keeper we would have lost by a much higher score. He's a great keeper and his strength is reaction."

The Wreckers struck right away when Lorenz Esposito came in from the right side on the end line and crossed a ball that Root was able to finish despite being shadowed by two defenders.

Staples did an outstanding job possessing and moving the ball, using all parts of the field. Malowitz had a pair of chances to extend the lead midway through the half, but was stopped both times by Gurtowski, who then robbed Steven Smith just before the break.

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"We always emphasize organization, not just in the midfield but in the back as well," Malowitz said. "Ridgefield is a team that, if you are not on your game, will stomp all over you."

The Tigers regrouped after the break and put the Wreckers on their heels with well orchestrated attacks. In the 48th minute, Sean Avellini, who leads the team with six goals, had an opportunity off a corner kick but headed the ball right at Staples goalkeeper James Hickok (three saves). Moments later, Joseph DeVivo got loose on the right side, but had a tough angle and placed his shot into the side of the net.

Root very nearly had his second goal in the 60th minute, freeing himself with a great move off the dribble and drilling a shot that resulted in Gurtowski's most acrobatic save of the game.

"We came out great and the defense bent but didn't break," Woog said. "It allowed us to get out legs back. We like to knock it around. We are far from Barcelona, but we do a good job."