WESTPORT - When the dust cleared at the end of the fall 2016 season, Staples field hockey stood on top as co-state champions. The team has reached the top that few are able to get to and they were joyous in being able to call themselves the best team.

But that was over a year ago, the latest version of this Wreckers squad has been in search of an identity and the leaders of the team understand that last season - and the successes that came - are over.

“We talked a lot after the Greenwich loss,” Staples co-captain Ellie Fair said. “We’ve had team meeting on how we need to focus on this season and forget about last season. It’s a whole different season with a whole different squad and we have to learn to play with each other.”

Although the roster consists of 11 seniors, there have been some bumps in the road in the early season. Injuries and rotations issues culminated in the first loss of the season last weekend against Greenwich.

The game proved to be a wake-up call for the squad that they seemed to have responded to in an even bigger way.

“What we lost against Greenwich were the 50-50 balls,” Staples coach Ian Tapsall said. “We went getting there first. For some reason we didn’t come in with the same determination that we always come in with. And that’s what we did last year, we won every 50-50 ball. I’m still working to find the best solution…it’s an ongoing process, but I think we’re getting there.”

Staples bounced back after their loss with a strong performance against previously unbeaten Fairfield Ludlowe in a game that co-captain Liv Ekholdt said got the team back to doing what they do best.

“We started playing like ourselves again,” she said. “We finally got our groove back. We started going to the right which is how it’s always meant to be. Our forwards were doing great. They had great tip-ins and a really good way of stopping balls.”

The team effort of the Wreckers vaulted them over a tough Ludlowe squad in the same way it did last season.

While last season’s success is still on the minds of the players, the team is not ready to sit on their laurels from 2016. This years will be something they have to earn back, co-captain Christine Taylor said.

“It’s just stressing the point that it doesn’t just come to you just because we won it last year,” she said.

With the season underway, Tapsall said he understands that everyone else in the FCIAC and in the state are looking at his team and the pressures that that can have.

“They’re no doubt we’re trying to rebuild after a really stellar season,” he said. “And the other things is we’ve got a big target on our backs, people are going to play a lot harder against us and they’re going to obviously enjoy winning against us this year. So what we have to do is withstand a storm.”

But this team seems to be ready to come together as one to face that impending storm en route to back-to-back state titles.

“We’re also using last season as a motivation for the younger girls,” Fair said. “Telling them how amazing that experience is to get them motivated.”


ct.com; @aronJohnson_