Wreckers kick off their Class LL playoff run with a 4-1 victory over Chieftains
Going into Tuesday's first round Class LL playoff game at Loeffler Field, the Staples boys soccer team's coaches weren't entirely sure what to expect from the players. The Wreckers were coming off their second straight FCIAC title and a six-day layoff, thus a letdown was plausible.
Coach Dan Woog said, "You don't know what to expect in playoff soccer as every team is tough at this level."
Woog's encyclopedic memory reminded us also that the last time Staples played the Chieftains was way back in 1972. He said, "They must adapt to us; we don't adapt to their game."
Fifth-seeded Staples took care of business and raised its record to 18-2 with a 4-1 home victory over 28th-seeded Conard, who ended their season at 8-7-2. The Wreckers are now 4-0-1 against the Chieftains.
Staples opened the game with its aggressive offense on the move and marched quickly into Conard's defense and with more two minutes elapsed, earned its first corner kick. Senior captain Mike White struck a beauty across the goal mouth that senior Mikey Fitzgerald just missed with a header. That set the tempo for the contest with the Wreckers pushing forward all day long. The defense of junior Frankie Bergonzi, senior captain Jack Hennessy, junior Sean Gallagher and Fitzgerald kept the ball in Conard's end for the vast majority of the first half.
The pressure applied by Staples was relentless and with 27:33 remaining in the half, senior captain Andrew McNair's free kick bounced in front of the Chieftain goal was batted out by the goalie and re-headed back over the line by White. There was a bit of confusion on the score until the side referee signaled it crossed the line and the Wreckers had a 1-0 lead.
Juniors Greg Gudis and Brendan Lesch constantly applied pressure in the middle. McNair complemented them on the right side and junior Mikey Scott kept racing down the left side. A corner kick from Gudis with 13:14 remaining was cleared and then another header from Lesch at 11:20 just missed the mark. Another throw in from Scott was headed over the top by White and then Gudis hit the side of the net. The passing between senior captain Alan Reiter and Lesch was followed by a behind the back pass from senior Matteo Marzoli that brought the crowd on the hill to their feet. With 4:03 to, a McNair free led to White kneeing the ball into the net, extending the lead to 2-0.
With two minutes left in the half, White sprinted down the field and was tripped in the goal box, creating a penalty kick. Reiter calmly stepped up and nailed it home for a 3-0 halftime lead.
In the early part of the second half, Gudis and White had back-to-back shots. The Wrecker defense and midfield took over and kept Conard's forwards away from senior goalie Michael McCarthy. McCarthy didn't have a lot of saves but kept the offense moving forward with his booming kicks and precise passes. (Staples outshot Conard, 18-10 and had a 6-1 corner kicks advantage). With just 22 minutes left,
McNair's shot on goal was kicked out by a Conard defender. Back the other way, a chieftain free kick was stopped cold by Hennessy and McCarthy followed that with a save.
With about 17 minutes left in the game, Woog started to rest his starters. Sophomore midfielder Alex Tonsberg had a strong shot on goal that was rebuffed. A minute later, Tonsberg's corner set up junior Steven Denowitz' goal off a diving header. Conard junior Patrick Gosselin scored in the waning moments.
Gudis said, "Everyone worked real hard today; we didn't let up and kept pressuring them all day long."
Hennessy said, "We played this game like we play every game; we take control early and keep pressuring the other guys."
Staples hosted 21st-seeded Newtown (11-6-1) yesterday after press time.