Staples stops Wilton girls soccer in FCIAC playoffs

The Staples Wreckers used the proverbial home-field advantage to their benefit on Saturday, shutting out the Wilton High girls soccer team, 2-0, in the quarterfinal round of the FCIAC playoffs in Westport.

The fourth-seeded Wreckers (11-2-4)  play on a grass field — the only other time fifth-seed Wilton played on grass this season was earlier in the year against Staples, when the teams battled to a 1-1 tie.

“You could tell our players, not used to the grass, slipped a little when planting their feet and didn’t follow balls down the line that would normally go out," said Wilton head coach John Salvatore.

The Wreckers controlled the midfield area, with the home team winning the possession battle in the scoreless first half. Staples put the ball on the net several times with long direct kicks, but the Warrior defense, led by Bridgette Dwyer and goalie Cecily Freliech, was there for the stops.

Just before the halftime break a Staples player intercepted a Wilton pass, which created a near breakaway opportunity. But Dwyer peeled back to cut off the angle and take away the ball.

Just under four minutes into the second half, Wilton's Laine Parsons trapped a high pass played toward the side of the net. Parsons had a step on her defender and had the goalie beat, but her shot was from a tough angle and the ball hit the side of the net.

Staples finally broke through with a score in the 61st minute of play. Lydia Shaw was able to go east and west on a Wilton defender and get by her  for an open shot that she tucked into the near post for the 1-0 lead.

The Warriors got more looks to score in the second half, with two coming off the foot of Hannah Maatallah. Maatallah sent two long direct kicks into the box, but none of her teammates were  there for a shot attempt.

Staples increased its lead to 2-0 with only 4:19 left in the game. The Warriors started moving players farther up the field to try for the equalizer, and that opened the field for the Wreckers' second goal. Shaw threaded a ball to Charlotte Rossi, who one-timed a shot into the net.

“The coaching staff gave the team an encouraging talk at halftime and we told them that no matter how well or poorly you play, you have to find a way to win," said Salvatore.“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked in the first half, but, hey, we were tied 0-0.

"We made some adjustments at halftime that gave us more chances to score ... we just didn’t capitalize on them," added Salvatore. "They did and we didn’t.

"We needed to come out early in the second half and get one on them but it didn’t happen. Give Staples credit; they finished on their two goals they scored. I’m pleased with the effort the team gave me and I hope we can put this behind us and focus on states."

Wilton (9-2-6) will now move on to the Class LL state tournament, which begins the first week of November.