WESTPORT — There will be more important games ahead, but today was a litmus test for Staples’ girls lacrosse team. The Wreckers came in at 7-1, but lacked a signature conference win and were coming off a one-goal loss to Cheshire.
With FCIAC favorites Darien and New Canaan not on the schedule, their biggest game is in 12 days against Wilton. Next up was this afternoon against struggling but defending state runner-up Ridgefield.
You could call it a non-playoff playoff game, and the Wreckers were all in about validating their record. They scored four straight goals early to take a 5-1 lead and withstood several rallies to come away with a 14-12 victory.
The celebration at the end was a little more raucous than usual.
“This is a really big win,” said Kyle Kirby, who finished with five goals and three assists. “Ridgefield only lost to New Canaan 6-5 and that really shows how much better we’ve gotten over the past few years. I think this was a great team win today because we played really, really well together, moved the ball really well. At times we got frustrated but we did a good job coming back from that.”
Shira Parower, who along with Kirby gives the Wreckers one of the best 1-2 offensive punches, scored a team-high six goals and had an assist.
“They’re having a great season,” Staples coach Nicole Gerosa said. “They’re working really well together. They play the two-man game and everyone is piggybacking off of that.”
Staples remained unbeaten in league play at 6-0.
There were two key points in the match when the Wreckers called on youth and experience to stamp out comeback bids by the Tigers. The first came after Ridgefield scored the first three goals of the second half to get within 7-6.
Kirby, who scored the final goal of the opening half, responded 41 seconds later, igniting a 5-0 run where she scored three times and Parower twice.
“I think we just needed to work a little harder on those ground balls,” Kirby said. “Beating us to the ball on those first three goals off the draw. We took a timeout, talked about it and said we just need to hustle a lot more. I think today after those three goals we wanted it more than they did.”
“Kirby went on a run after that, she did a lot,” added Ridgefield coach Cece Berger. “That was very impressive. They connect well with each other.”
The second came with 1:20 remaining. Caitlin Slaminko, who finished with six goals, an assist and was sensational in defeat, answered a Parower score with two of her own to make the score 14-12. Fouls called after the goals allowed Ridgefield to maintain possession.
But freshman goaltender Sarah DiGiovanni made two late saves, the second on Slaminko with 12 seconds left.
“She did a great job,” Kirby said. She stepped up. I think we stepped up at the end there. Those were unfortunate calls at the end but it happens.”
The Wreckers, who opened the season with a win over Greenwich, have made great strides since a 7-5 regular season a year ago.
“This year we’ve been focusing a lot more on movement on attack and getting everyone involved instead of set plays,” Gerosa said. “Everyone on the team has a role and building that chemistry. Waiting for good possessions, waiting to take the shot, not forcing it. Greenwich was a big win for us early in the season. We’ve had a couple more wins and we needed this win today.”
Ridgefield (3-5, 2-3) has now lost five of its last six games. Three days earlier it suffered a rare walkoff loss on a goal by New Canaan’s Jane Charlton at the buzzer.
“I’m going over with them the things that we did wrong,” Berger said. “There are mistakes that we made that we have to correct. Value the ball when you’re up against a good team. Every little mistake becomes a big one. I told them we’re going to come back. The season is still very young. They can do it. There is a lot of potential.”
Meanwhile, the Wreckers are positioning themselves to get a chance to test themselves against Darien or New Canaan in the postseason.
“I think we definitely proved ourselves today,” Kirby said. “This was a really, really big win.”