For the second year in a row, Staples ended the Wilton High field hockey team’s season in the first round of the Class L state tournament — this time a 2-1 verdict on Wednesday in Westport.
The seventh-seeded Wreckers (12-2-0-2) scored twice in a span of 45 seconds midway through the second half to take a 2-0 lead and held off a late Wilton rally to advance.
It was the third game between the two teams this season. The 10th-seeded Warriors (13-6-0-1) had won both earlier encounters, including an FCIAC quarterfinal game, in overtime.
“The first two times we faced them this year, it was our day, and today was their day,” said Wilton co-coach Toniann Cortina.
The Wreckers controlled almost all of the first half but couldn’t convert on multiple chances. Wilton didn’t generate a scoring chance until more than 20 minutes had elapsed, and didn’t have a shot on goal in the first half.
The Warriors came out of halftime on fire, with several great scoring chances in the first four minutes.
Staples goalie Bridget Mulloy made a save to rob Molly Thomas in front just over a minute into the half, and turned away an open shot by Olivia Hahn a few minutes later, with the rebound attempt by Emma Rothkopf hitting the left post.
The play went back and forth until Staples scored on a penalty corner to break the 0-0 tie with 16:58 left. The initial shot was blocked by Sophia Kaplan but the ball was sent back in front and eventually it rolled out to Madelaine Ambrose, who lifted a shot into the top right corner from about eight yards out.
The second goal seemed to catch the Warriors off-guard, as a long hit from the midfield into the arc was deflected towards the right post, where Meghan Johnson came charging in to knocked it into the cage, making it 2-0 with 16:13 left.
Wilton rallied to cut the lead to 2-1 with 8:55 left on a penalty corner, as Rothkopf’s hit from the right circle was re-directed to the far post and tapped into the goal by Emma Rosen.
The Warriors kept pushing for the tying goal but couldn’t quite get the final connection. Their best chance came with four minutes left when Hahn’s pass set up Jess Hendry at the left post, but Mulloy had the post covered to block the attempt.
“It came down to the last seconds. For a while I thought we were the more dominant team and I thought we came out pretty hard, especially in the second half,” said Wilton co-coach Liz Pisko.
“We couldn’t finish it off but I’m going to chalk that up to good defense by Staples, not necessarily bad offense on us. You can’t take away from what Staples did out there. They played a great game,” said Cortina, who was proud of her team’s effort all season.
“Every game that we’ve played, whether we’ve won or we lost, they have played to the last millisecond of the game. Whether we were up 6-0 or down 3-0, they have always played 60 minutes on the field.”
Staples coach Ian Tapsall said he was proud of his girls, as well, but also said his team needed to do a better job finishing off attacks.
“It was a great game. It was the usual game where we defend, we bring the ball out of defense well, we get to the circle, and we just lose it. We’ve got to learn how to finish,” he said. “You can see how dangerous that is. It’s just one bounce and the ball is in the back of the net because they’ve got three really good forwards.”
Megan Kaeyer made three saves in goal for Wilton and Mulloy had two saves for the Wreckers, who play at second-seeded Cheshire on Friday.