The pressure was piled on the Staples field hockey team for 59 minutes of its FCIAC quarterfinal against host Norwalk on Saturday morning at Testa Field, and with just 39 seconds left on the clock, the brave Wreckers rearguard was finally broken.

Eventually converting their 20th penalty corner into a goal with less than a minute left, the Bears (13-3) advanced to the FCIAC semifinals with a 1-0 win over Staples. Norwalk will face another border rival in Wilton on Tuesday.

After clearing the initial effort from the corner, Norwalk worked it back into the circle and junior Marissa Mastrianni was on hand to knock it home after an initial save from Wreckers goalie Jodie Baris.

“It’s the FCIAC playoffs so you know it’s going to be a great game,” said Norwalk coach Kyle Seaburg. “(Baris) did a phenomenal job so we just talked about executing. It finally went in; I’m proud of them for sticking with it because it was frustrating.”

Norwalk held a 12-4 edge in shots and a 20-3 advantage —13-1 in the second half — in penalty corners.

Staples soaked up long periods of possession from the Bears, but broke on the counter attack several times in the second half and had multiple chances at a goal. Several balls failed to connect with sticks with just Norwalk goalie Samantha Troetti to beat.

“(Norwalk is) very aggressive and they hit the ball hard,” said Staples coach Ian Tapsall. “Our game plan was to contain that; we were very successful in our counter attacks. I don’t mind the pressure we get; more often than not we deal with it. If we had a break in their circle we would have scored a goal or two.”

Staples stifled Norwalk’s numerous penalty corner attempts, including one that resulted in a shot that clanged off the outside of the post and wide.

“(The Wreckers) do a great job of getting in your face and making it hard to get the shot off,” Seaburg said. “I tip my hat to them; we need to execute better but their defense is phenomenal.”

Baris (eight saves) delivered another excellent performance in the cage, with only the amount of shots her undoing.

“She’s great,” Tapsall said. “The problem is that she’s got a lot of opportunities to save or to make good efforts. The sheer volume of efforts; eventually it’s going to buckle.

“It really is tough losing in the last 39 seconds, I feel sorry for the girls.”

Staples (9-6-1) will regroup for the Class L tournament, which isn’t slated to begin until Nov. 11. The Wreckers had won five out of their last six games prior to Saturday.

“We’re competing with anyone right now,” Tapsall said. “I don’t know how the rest of the (leagues) are, but we can give any team in the FCIAC a good game.”,




Records: Staples 9-6-1, 9-5-1 FCIAC; Norwalk 13-3, 12-3 FCIAC.

Goals: N—Marissa Mastrianni. Goalies: S—Jodie Baris (8 saves); N—Samantha Troetti (2 saves). Shots: S—4; N—12.