Staples boys soccer advances to Class LL second round
Staples senior Gabe Pensak began his run-up for a throw in from the eighth lane of the East Hartford track midway through the first half of the teams' Class LL first round contest.
Pensak, whose penchant for long throws has resulted in numerous goals for the Wreckers this season, got about 10 steps in before launching the ball into the penalty area. Teammate Josh Berman was in the right position to head the No. 19 Wreckers in front. Pensak repeated the task to Berman in the second half, helping Staples to a 3-0 win over the No. 14 Hornets to advance to Wednesday's second round.
After the long journey to East Hartford on Monday, the Wreckers will hop on a bus again to No. 3 West Haven after Pensak and Berman provided the double blow to the Hornets.
"We're pretty psyched, but we're focusing on Wednesday," Pensak said. "We'll be happy tonight but we're set on studying and doing what we can to break down West Haven."
After Berman's first goal made it 1-0 with 24 minutes left in the first half, Staples doubled the advantage off another set play. Nate Argosh got on the end of a cross after an initial free kick had been cleared, and looped it over the East Hartford goalie and into the net.
"When it gets to near 20 yards to the corner flag it's kind of like a corner kick," Pensak said. "Since we're so used to it now, (Berman) knows exactly what we're doing and I try to find his head and it worked pretty well."
Berman wrapped up the win by beating the defense to Pensak's long throw with 31 minutes left in the game.
"An inordinate amount of goals are scored off set pieces in the upper level," Staples coach Dan Woog said. "We work on that tremendously; it's nice to have it pay off."
In between Wreckers' goals, the Hornets proved to be a dangerous opponent. Noah Schwaeber was forced to make an early one-on-one save on Emmanuel Agyemang to keep the game scoreless, and in the course of two second-half minutes, East Hartford had a shot and a cross each bounce off the post.
"We had a good scouting report," Woog said. "They had two very dangerous guys up top; we did not want them to turn, we did not want them to go to goal and we wanted to double them as much as we could."
Staples settled into the game as the game went on and had chances to increase their lead in the second half. East Hartford responded with a period on top, but Schwaeber (four saves) and the Wreckers defense kept the clean sheet.
The Wreckers reached the quarterfinals as a No. 10 seed last year and hope to make another deep run as an underdog this fall.
"It's a long season, there are ups and downs," Woog said. "We spend a lot of time on the mental aspect of it. Getting them mentally prepared, they are really understanding it's one game at a time. They take a lot of legacy from the teams before them. It's not just a tournament, it means something to them."