By Eliot Schickler

The 20th-seeded Staples girls soccer team advanced to the second round of the Class LL tournament.

Staples defeated 13th-seeded New Milford 3-1 Thursday in the first round of the LL tournament and raised its record to 9-5-3. New Milford, who won the SWC title three days earlier, ended the regular season at 13-5-2.

"I'm really excited about it," Lady Wreckers coach Nikki Ross said. "It was tough not playing for two weeks but the girls came up strong and were pumped and I'm pleased with the result."

Staples also had to overcome a very physical Lady Green Wave squad.

"At first, you can see the girls get frustrated and rightfully so," Ross said. "We told them to play our game and when we moved the ball, we overcame their physical play. We also have girls who can be physical as well."

Freshman Chloe Rosenfield elevated her game for the Lady Wreckers in the midfield and won many 50-50 balls, which helped them counteract New Milford's physical play.

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"We knew they were physical but we came together as a team and knew this game was important. The seniors told us before the game that if we don't win, it's their last game and it motivated us."

Senior captain Abbey Lake said, "Chloe played well and gave it back to them. She's a lot stronger than she looks, which is why people underestimate her, and she knows how to shield the ball."

Although Rosenfield was smaller and younger than her Lady Green Wave counterparts, she remained undeterred.

"For me, it was a matter of getting the first touch and always being the first one to get to the 50-50 ball and coming into my tackles as hard as I could," Rosenfield said. "I was nervous at the beginning but after we started, the nerves went away and I started to play my game."

Ross said, "Chloe did a great job winning 50-50 balls and was able to be all over the field. We played tight defense and kept the ball out of our defensive side."

Once Rosenfield controlled the midfield, along with senior captain Abby Fagan, junior Julia Tziolis and sophomore Gia Mitas, Staples took control on offense behind Lake. Lake scored a hat trick and gave the Lady Wreckers a 1-0 lead with 2:00 remaining in the half when she scored on a breakaway and booted the ball into right hand corner of the box.

"It's definitely a matter of placing the shot," Lake said. "She's tall [New Milford goalie Jane Thompson] and I had to put it low."

Staples increased its lead to 2-0 when Lake dribbled past three girls and scored with 33:46 left in the game.

--I realized the center backs were flat-footed and I took a shot where the goalie didn't suspect it would go," Lake said.

New Milford halved the lead with 24:15 to go when junior Claudia Taylor placed it in. However, Lake iced the game with 7:55 left when she dribbled past the Lady Green Wave defenders and tucked it in.

Overall, the Lady Wreckers outshot New Milford, 13-4 and had a 6-1 advantage in corner kicks and it could have been more lopsided if it weren't for Thompson (nine saves). Fagan was aggressive and fired five shots while Staples junior Turner Block launched a couple of shots.

"We should have beaten her [Thompson] more than three times," Lake said. "We had a lot of opportunities and I'm happy to get the win."

Lady Wrecker senior Ali Crofts returned after missing most of the season with an injury. Crofts' speed helped free up Staples' offense.

"We're definitely excited to have her [Crofts] back," Ross said. "Definitely, her speed helps and it's good to get girls of different abilities in there."

Also returning to the lineup from an injury was junior Siri Andrews, who is the anchor of the defense. Andrews, seniors Colleen McCarthy and Alex Wiener and freshman Megan Root also played well on defense. Senior captain goalie Jessie Ambrose made two saves.

Staples plays at fourth-seeded Shelton (15-2-3) Saturday at 2 p.m. in the second round of the playoffs. Shelton is the defending Class LL champion.

"They definitely have speed and are a solid team, but they are definitely not much better than us and they are not out of reach for us," Lake said. "It will be a good game."