Lady Wreckers fall to Glastonbury in semis on PKs
Penalty kicks has decided the Staples girls soccer team's fate for the second time in three games.
After winning its second round playoff game of the Class LL tournament in the fourth round of penalty kicks, two games and seven days later, 20th-seeded Staples lost its Class LL semifinals game the same.
Top-seeded Glastonbury eliminated the Lady Wreckers, 2-1 (3-1), Saturday at West Haven Saturday and raised its record to 16-0-2 and will face 18th-seeded Trumbull today at 4 p.m. for the Class LL title. Staples, who finished the year at 11-6-3, was 14-19 on penalty kicks Nov. 12 in winning at defending champion Shelton, was 1-4 on PKs Saturday, with two misses going way wide and the third hitting the upper post.
"Penalty kicks is one of the worse ways to decide the game," Lady Wreckers coach Nikki Ross said. "I hate to win on penalty kicks and I hate to lose on penalty kicks. It all comes down to luck and we didn't have it today."
The Lady Tomahawks began the penalty kicks round with senior captain McKenzie Hollenbaugh and classmates Kayla Orozco and Grace Twardy all making their kicks by shooting them to the upper corner of the net against Staples senior captain goalie Jessie Ambrose, who is 5-3, and getting to those shots was virtually impossible.
"It's ironic," Ambrose said. "We worked hard to get Shelton into PKs and with Glastonbury, the first two PKs set the tone, and they did a better job of finishing. PKs is all mental."
Staples stayed alive after senior captain Abby Fagan kept Staples alive slid in her penalty kick. A miss by Lady Tomahawk junior Melissa Andrade kept the Lady Wreckers alive. However, Staples freshman Megan Root, who played well defensively all game and who converted a kick against Shelton, hit her shot on the upper post and the game ended.
"I thought it was a good game and close match and it could have gone either way," Ambrose said. "It was tough losing in PKs but we played well."
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Most of the game was played between the teams' 18-yard line. Lady Wrecker junior Siri Andrews kept many balls out of harm's way and played a dominating game on defense. Wiener, classmate Colleen McCarthy, junior Julia Tziolis, sophomore Gia Mitas and Root also played well defensively for Staples.
Denior Abbey Lake had a few good runs to the net and with 23:50 remaining in the second half, Fagan sent her a touch pass. Lake went in and kicked it past senior goalie Molly Hicks (five saves) to give the Lady Wreckers a 1-0 lead.
"I was heading down the right side and hit it to the left corner," Lake said.
Fagan said, "I gave it to her and she placed in the far corner."
Staples junior Turner Block also had a few nice rushes down the field and freshman Lauren Garcia won balls in the attack zone to set up opportunities. Freshmen Chloe Rosenfield and Maggie Walsh won balls in the midfield for the Lady Wreckers.
Although Staples took the lead, it didn't get overconfident.
"You are never set with a 1-0 lead," Lake said. "Glastonbury is a team that will get back and fight back after allowing a goal."
With 14:41 left, Orozco tied it on a shot to the upper corner out of Ambrose's reach.
"I knew Glastonbury could come back," Fagan said. "Our goal gave us momentum but unfortunately, Glastonbury's girl fired a nice shot and there wasn't much we could do about it."
No one can fault Ambrose (10 saves) because she made three big saves to rob the Lady Tomahawks and preserve the tie.
"In overtime, they were shutting down our offense and I wanted to get it into PKs and did it for my team," Ambrose said. "My defense did a good job of forcing outside shots and gave me time to act. I knew if I could get one hand on the ball, it would help."
"They played us to the end and Lake is a special player," Glastonbury coach Joe Finocchiaro said. "Staples had a great season and Nikki Ross did a fabulous job with them."
Fagan said, "It's tough losing on penalty kicks. We put everything on the field and there's not much we can do about it."
Despite the loss, Staples was pleased with its season.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team," Ross said. "We worked against a lot of odds and can't be happier with what we've done. It was an amazing season and I never could imagine it getting to this point. The girls did an awesome job."
Ambrose said, "The season had bumps on the road but we finished strong and I'm proud of everyone. We knew we had potential and had to work the kinks out. We knew had to play to the best of our ability and play every game as if it's our last and we did."