Staples girls soccer beats New Canaan in LL 1st round
WESTPORT — By not losing in any of its final eight regular-season games, the Staples girls soccer team racked up enough points to secure two home games in the Class LL tournament.
Or so the Wreckers thought.
Due to an error failing to place Suffield in the Class LL bracket — the school had previously played in Class L but jumped up this year — Staples was moved from the No. 8 seed to the No. 9 spot, which meant a road trip in the second round was possible, if not likely.
But fate intervened elsewhere, and the Staples seniors will have one more chance to leave their footprints in the mud and grass at Loeffler Field.
Staples cruised to victory in the first round of the Class LL tournament, as seniors Charlotte Rossi and Tia Zajec each scored in a 3-0 win over New Canaan on Wednesday. Staples will host No. 25 Brien McMahon — which upset No. 8 Newtown in double overtime — in the round of 16 on Friday.
“The main positive for me today was riding out (New Canaan’s) start, because they were really good at the start,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “When we can soak up that pressure and then put the game in our favor, that was big, to change from defending to a dominant performance.”
Instead of facing Norwich Free Academy — the Wildcats took the 210-minute bus ride only to find out they were participating in an expensive scrimmage — Staples fended off FCIAC opposition in the first round by the same score it did in the regular season.
“Our nerves were really high and we expected (New Canaan) to come out really strong,” Zajec said. “We just had to pass it around, take control and settle us down in midfield.”
The Rams started the match brightly and caught the Wreckers off guard with constant pressure. Staples hadn’t ventured into the visitors box with any regularity until Katie Ialeggio poked home a cross midway through the first half.
The Wreckers scored again five minutes later when Rossi scored on the rebound after a first effort hit the crossbar and a second was saved by Rams netminder Kendall Curtin.
The two chances were all Staples needed to build a very comfortable lead heading into the second half.
“We knew going in it was going to be a tough fixture,” New Canaan coach Rich Hichson said.
Zajac wrapped up the victory less than five minutes into the second half with a classy finish just inside the post.
New Canaan (6-7-4) finished three points off a FCIAC playoff spot in Hichson’s first year with the group.
STAPLES 3, NEW CANAAN 0
NEW CANAAN 0 0—0
STAPLES 2 1—3
Records: New Canaan 6-7-4, Staples 12-2-3. Goals: S—Katie Ialeggio, Charlotte Rossi, Tia Zajec. Goalies: NC—Kendall Curtin (7 saves); S— Anna Sivinski (2), Camryn Ragland (2).