Staples defeats Norwalk 1-0 in Class LL first round
For 78 minutes of its Class LL first round game with Norwalk, the Staples boys soccer team was frustrated by not being able to convert any of its plentiful opportunities into goals.
It took an individual moment of brilliance with less than two minutes left to separate the two teams and lift Staples past the defending Class LL champion.
Joe Pravder's wonder strike from 30 yards out with 1:39 left in regulation gave the Wreckers a 1-0 win over Norwalk on Tuesday afternoon at Loeffler field. Staples will meet Newtown or New Britain Thursday in the round of 16.
"I've been around long enough to know goals are not easy as they seem," Staples coach Dan Woog said. "When you are out there its really tough. We fought for everything, Norwalk fought for everything. It was a hard-fought game."
Pravder capitalized on a failed clearing attempt by the Bears, curling a shot into the top corner of the net. Norwalk goalie Tyler Dalton was helpless to do anything but watch the ball loop over his head and under the crossbar.
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"It was a great goal. It came after a number of chances," Woog said. "(Dalton) did a great job, we had been generating good chances. We didn't get frustrated; we always say it doesn't matter when you score, early or late. We'll take 1:39 left all day.
After being held to one goal in their last three games -- all defeats -- the Wreckers finally cashed in after seeing so many chances go by the wayside.
"We were rocked after losing three in a row," Woog said. "We were doubting ourselves; we hadn't scored a goal. The week off was (productive). We worked on some things."
Particularly dangerous was defender Andrew Puchala, who recently returned to the lineup. Puchala told Woog that it felt like he "was parachuted into a new team" after the Wreckers had nearly two weeks to prepare for the state tournament.
"We've missed (Puchala), his heading, his defense, his voice," Woog said. "Having him back there is very big. The whole defense was outstanding."
Chances were few and far between for the Bears, but Miguel Argueta came closest early in the second half. His shot from just inside the box was tipped over by Wreckers goalie Noah Schwaeber. Staples controlled the midfield for most of the game and kept Norwalk penned inside its own half for long stretches.
"Staples did a good job of minimizing our opportunities, so that's a credit to them," Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said. "We haven't been the most offensively potent team this year. I was hoping we would capitalize on the opportunities that we had."
The Wreckers hope derailing the defending state champions will help ignited a postseason run after stumbling down the stretch.
"We have a long way to go but this team we feel we can win a state championship," Pravder said. "We have the talent and this was a good starting point."