Staples shut out by Danbury 2-0 in girls soccer state tournament opener
After it weathered a brief storm in the opening minutes, it was smooth sailing for the Danbury High School girls soccer team in its first-round game in the Class LL state tournament against Staples on Monday.
Freshman Sara DaSilva and senior Taylor Moore each scored a goal and senior goalkeeper Rebecca Gartner made 14 saves as the ninth-seeded Hatters eliminated the 24th-seeded Wreckers with a 2-0 victory in a battle of FCIAC rivals.
"I'm just really proud of all the girls," Gartner said. "We've been working extremely hard. A big thing we stress is not taking any team for granted and working our hardest every game."
It was a nice way to bounce back for the Hatters, who had lost 3-0 in the FCIAC semifinals to eventual-champ St. Joseph on Oct. 28.
In the second round of the Class LL state tournament, the Hatters will visit South-West Conference runner-up New Milford at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The eighth-seeded Green Wave eliminated 25th-seeded New Canaan on penalty kicks Monday.
Staples had the better of the scoring chances in the first 15 to 20 minutes Monday and applied continual pressure on the Hatter defense. But Gartner and the backfield trio of seniors Olivia DeBellis and Bethany Silva and sophomore Christine Cardamone stood their ground and kept Staples off the scoreboard.
"It was definitely frustrating," Staples coach Heather Driscoll said. "I think we created chances the whole game and we couldn't put them away. That's kind of been our season, not being able to finish. But I thought we played really well. The kids worked hard. We were dangerous on the attack and they did pretty well defending."
With less than 15 minutes remaining in the first half, the Hatters were rewarded for their defensive persistence when DaSilva scored off a pass from Brittini Silva. The scoring sequence was set in motion moments earlier when DeBellis intercepted an errant Staples pass near midfield.
Gartner made perhaps her biggest save -- and certainly her most spectacular save -- with 30 minutes remaining. Staples' Lauren Garcia lofted a corner kick into the box that found its way to Georgea Mita on the doorstep. Mita's header, however, was snared out of mid-air by a diving Gartner to preserve the Hatters' one-goal lead.
"She's huge. She's one of the best keepers in the state, without a doubt," Danbury coach Jessica Halas said. "There is comfort just knowing that she's back there. She's not going to give up a soft goal. She's going to be set and ready for each shot."
Gartner's prowess in goal is complemented by the play of defenders DeBellis, Silva and Cardamone, who have been a solid unit all season.
"They have speed, they have a good read on the ball and they're physical," Halas said.
With 18:20 remaining, Moore added an insurance goal off an assist from junior Breanna Prata.
Danbury had defeated Staples 3-1 during a regular-season meeting on Sept. 24.
"This team, the last time we played them, I knew they were a good, solid team," Gartner said. "Their forwards are strong. And I respect them. They're a good young team."