eschickler@bcnnew.com

Playing away from the friendly confines of Loeffler field was no problem for the Staples boys soccer team. Fifth-seeded Staples raised its record to 19-2 and won convincingly defeated fourth-seeded Amity (17-3) 3-0 on Monday and advanced to today's Class LL semifinals match against top-seeded Glastonbury at West Haven High at 7 p.m.

"It was a tough field to play on," said Wreckers coach Dan Woog. "We weren't pleased with our defense the last time and we wanted to play better defense today, like we did in the regular season. We got our mojo back."

Woog was referring to Staples 3-2 (4-3) home victory over 21st-seeded Newtown last Thursday. Senior captain Mike White scored from senior captain Alan Reiter and senior Matteo Marzoli scored from senior Andrew McNair to give the Wreckers a 2-0 lead against Newtown but they surrendered their advantage in the second half. Ultimately, the game was decided by penalty kicks. Reiter, Marzoli, senior goalie Mike McCarthy and junior Greg Gudis converted their kicks for the Westporters.

Senior captain Jack Hennessy, classmate Mikey Fitzgerald and juniors Frankie Bergonzi and Sean Gallagher made sure a subpar defensive effort didn't happen again for Staples and their strong play kept the ball away from senior goalie Mike McCarthy (two saves).

"Sean Gallagher, Frankie Bergonzi, Mikey Fitzgerald and Mike McCarthy made my job easy," said Hennessy. "We got too complacent against Newtown and stopped attacking. I made sure we stepped the line up and attacked."

This led to the Wreckers keeping the ball in the Spartans' zone for the most part, outshooting the hosts, 19-5, to go with a 19-5 advantage in corner kicks. Amity goalie Steve Sasso had 13 saves. Staples wasted no time and only 3:25 into the game, took a 1-0 lead when White scored off a corner kick on junior Greg Gudis' cross.

"It was a cross in the box and Andrew McNair screened the goalie's view, which made it easier for me to score," said White.

Gudis said, "I really didn't do too much. I got it to Mike and he scored."

At 24:09 of the first half, the Wreckers made it 2-0 off a corner kick with Fitzgerald scoring from point blank range after receiving the ball from White.

"I was just following the ball, it rolled out to me and I just finished it," said Fitzgerald.

White said, "Fitzy is good in the air and he managed to get his foot on the ball and get a scrappy goal."

Staples won almost every 50-50 ball and kept its relentless attack going with White, Gudis and Reiter firing four shots each and McNair and Fitzgerald launching three shots apiece. Junior Mike Scott was tough in the midfield and had a shot. Scott especially contributed with his throw ins.

"We did what we needed to do against a good team," said Woog. "We had a good scouting report, on them, knowing that they don't like long balls and we tried to force them into committing errors."

White said, "We knew we didn't want to be in that position again [as Thursday]."

Hennessy said, "It's a second life and we realized it could end at any time. We brought it to heart and came out strong."

Reiter, McNair, Marzoli and junior Brendan Lesch also contributed many chances by winning balls in the midfield and effectively crossed it to White and Gudis. Junior Jake Krosse contributed off the bench in the midfield as well.

With 27:48 left in the game, Gallagher stole the ball and sent a long cross to Gudis, who went in one-on-one with Sasso and slid it home for the goal to make it 3-0.

"Sean just found me at the right moment and got the ball to me," said Gudis. "I saw the keeper come off his line and I slotted it home."

Gallagher said, "The ball was coming in and I had a few guys around me. I saw Gudis made a run, kicked it to him and I hoped for the best."

Facing Glastonbury is like déjà vu for the Wreckers, which they hope produces a different result. Last year, Staples took a 1-0 lead in the Class LL semifinals over Glastonbury but in the end, the Tomahawks scored twice in the last eight minutes to escape with the victory.

"We remember the game well," said Woog.

White said, "We have to play good soccer coming out and we have to play hard. We want to win States."

Hennessy said, "They ended our season last year. They are a great team and we have to go hard."