Warde shuts out Staples 1-0 in girls soccer

The Fairfield Warde girls soccer team keeps rolling on, although the Mustangs were far from dominant in a 1-0 win over Staples in an FCIAC match Wednesday afternoon at Warde.

They were good enough, though, scoring just 177 ticks of the clock into the game, to keep their impressive streaks going. Yet Warde might face a stiffer challenge in its next game, on Friday at 7 p.m. at Fairfield Ludlowe, which has won four in a row.

For now, Warde brings in an eight-game, season-opening unbeaten streak and a seven-game shutout run into the cross-town rivalry showdown. The Mustangs will take their 7-0-1 overall and conference records into that game against the 4-4-0 Falcons.

Jenn Maldonado scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season at 2:57 of the first half when she converted a spot on pass by Anna Glovin from the right side. The Warde defense, which last gave up goals on Sept. 11 in a 4-2 victory over Darien in the season opener, did its job in protecting goalkeeper Katie Brennan for yet another shutout.

"They responded great," said Staples coach Heather Driscoll of the early deficit, following the loss that dropped the Wreckers to 5-4-0 overall and in the FCIAC. "They (Mustangs) did not have a ton of dangerous shots until the end. Our defense lapsed for about two seconds (on the goal). I'm proud of how we bounced back."

Maldonado said Warde's focus is sharp for the opening five minutes of play, which can be pivotal in setting the tone. "Anyone of us could have scored the goal. It wasn't an individual effort, it was a team effort," Maldonado said. "Anna gave me a great ball, and I wanted to shoot it quick."

Maldonado did not trap the ball, instead redirecting the one-timer inside the far post past Wreckers' goalie Mary Bennewitz. Maldonado was not guarded. The Staples coverage, though, picked up after that goal.

"Getting opportunities early and putting them away gives us a sense of relief," said Warde coach Tom Cunningham. "Staples is always solid. We knew what to expect. We played hard, and we played a full 80 minutes.

"The best defense is a good offense," Cunningham said. "I didn't want us to sit back, and we didn't. I wanted us to maintain our style of play. We talked about not giving up for a minute, and we didn't."

Following the goal, the game was played mostly on even terms. In the final 10 minutes, the Staples attack intensified, and that's when the Warde defense was at its best. When fatigue might have hindered the Wreckers' attempts to rally, the Mustangs' offense had its best forays.

Bennewitz made a remarkable punch save with 40 seconds left in the match, which was a half-minute after a Warde shot hit the goal post. Staples lost its third game in a row but Driscoll noted that's come against strong competition.