By Eliot Schickler

One down and three more to go for the Staples girls lacrosse team.

In order for Staples to win the Class L title, it needs to win four games. The fourth-seeded Lady Wreckers accomplished one-quarter of their mission Thursday with a 20-8 home victory over 13th-seeded West Haven in the first round of the state playoffs.

Staples raised its record to 14-4 and will host fifth-seeded Hall of West Hartford Monday at 5 p.m. in the Class L quarterfinals. West Haven ended its season at 8-9.

The Lady Wreckers overcame what they felt was a sluggish start before they put away the Lady Blue Devils in the second half. Moreover, they overcame the loss of Maeve Flaherty, who was an All-American last year. Staples led 2-1 when Flaherty was disqualified because of her second yellow card.

Losing Flaherty early in the game would hurt most teams, but instead of wilting away, her teammates picked up their games and slowly pulled away.

"It shows we became a versatile team and can do things on the fly," Lady Wreckers co head coach Cathy Schager said. "It's too bad because Maeve did a lot of beautiful things on the fly, but the fact that the girls stepped up is a good sign."

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Flaherty normally takes the faceoffs and with her height, athleticism and ability to jump, Staples usually gains possession off of her draws. Jessie Ambrose and Meredith Hood shared the face off duties and won the majority of them.

Remy Nolan was the main beneficiary of Ambrose's and Hood's work in the circle with 10 draw controls.

"Just being aggressive and going to the ball fast," Nolan said.

Nolan (one interception), who is mostly renowned for her checking, defense and work in the trenches, contributed immensely to the offense with three goals and an assist.

"I tried to set the tone, that we were ready to go in the tournament," Nolan said. "The drives helped a lot. The fast break was also big."

Lady Wreckers co head coach Stacy Fierce said, "Remy was a leader on the field today. When she took control of the ball, she was great. We showed we can run the fast break. The big thing was we were able to connect on our transition passes."

Ryan Kirshner symbolizes a positive trend for Staples in its quest of winning Class L. Despite missing most of the year because of mono, Kirshner (one caused turnover, one draw control) is starting to be a major contributor.

Kirshner had her second straight 3-goal game and added an assist.

"I'm trying to do the best I can to make up for lost time," Kirshner said. "All of my teammates were helping me out. The first half was sloppy, but in the second half, we picked it up."

Although the Lady Wreckers led throughout, they was never comfortable in the first half. Staples led 8-3 at the break, and West Haven made it 8-4 in the first minute of the second half.

Following the Lady Blue Devils early goal after the break, the Lady Wreckers started to pick it up and put the game away. Ambrose (three draw controls, one ground ball) led the offense with four goals and three assists through her marksmanship and centering passes.

"Our defense did great and caused turnovers, which led to the fast break, and I was able to hit the open girl," Ambrose said.

She was especially plugging her twin, Katie Ambrose, who continued to play aggressively on defense. Kenzie Roof (two ground balls, two caused turnovers, one interception, one draw control) led the backfield and kept the ball out of harm's way.

On the few occasions West Haven got through, Lady Wrecker goalie Kirsten Flicker (11 saves), who is starting to come into her own, came up big for them with stellar saves.

"I knew if we lost, it was our last game of the year, and I knew I had to try my hardest," Flicker said.

A first-year varsity goalie, Flicker has improved as the season progressed and is developing into a high caliber goalie. She's become sharper and has the potential to steal a game for her teammates.

"It made me more confident," Flicker said. "I know my teammates better, and I know how to clear it to them [her teammates on defense] and work with them. Knowing them makes it easier to prepare with them."

Ali April (one ground ball), Katie Kleinberg (one draw control) and Jenna McNicholas (one draw control) also played well defensively.

Paige Murray (four goals, one draw control) continued to perform like a sniper. Murray used her speed as well in getting to the net.

"Jessie and the other girls who assisted on my goals made good passes, and I was able to put it in," Murray said. "We had a plan to win and did what we could to win."

Schager was especially pleased with Ambrose and Murray for their roles.

"Jessie controlled the tempo and was good at listening," Schager said. "She was a leader on the field. Paige listened too, and we designed plays for her."

Murray said, "The coaches helped me out. They helped the team become closer and told us what we need to do. They are great leaders."

Ali Crofts (one goal, one interception, one draw control) helped create offense through her speed.

Megan O'Shea (two goals, one draw control) had one of her better games. Adele Mackey and Emily Goldberg each had a goal and a ground ball. Sami Bautista also tallied a goal. Hood had a ground ball.

Staples is looking forward to its game with hall but isn't taking anything for granted.

"In order for us to go further in states, we have to execute our fast break," Fierce said.

The Lady Wreckers continue to add dimensions to their game, and they hope to continue this trend. Flaherty will be back in the lineup Monday.

"We finished strong against West Haven, and we hope to take it the rest of the way," Jessie Ambrose said.