Field Hockey

Staples Alters Goal To Winning A Difficult Pod

Julia DiConza is one of the returning starters for Staples’ field hockey team.

WESTPORT — The seniors on last year’s Staples field hockey team graduated with perfection in the state tournament. The Wreckers won the last three Class L titles outright and the year before shared the championship after a tie with Darien.

The current seniors will not be afforded the same opportunity. Because of COVID-19, the schedules in all sports have been trimmed to 10 regular-season games, and what is being termed a two-game tournament experience remains an unknown. The Wreckers might not even get a chance to play the Blue Wave, their biggest antagonist.

“Its a little bit frustrating,” said Izzy Deveney, one of Staples’ three captains. “It’s frustrating for every team. We always have a couple of rivalries. This year it’s a little disappointing we don’t get to play again. It’s always good to play rivals and see people we play club with on other teams. We’re just going to make the most of what we have.”

The Wreckers remarkably have lost just four regular-season games during this incredible run. Most teams are talking about making the most of what they are getting during a pandemic, and Staples is fortunate that it was placed in a difficult six-team pod that will provide a good test as it tries to replace five key starters.

Staples must face Ridgefield, a developing power that finished tied for the third-best record during the regular season a year ago, Norwalk, which was fifth, and Wilton, which ended up sixth.

“The region is not bad,” said Staples coach Ian Tapsall. “We play against what I consider three really top teams.”

The Wreckers graduated Kyle Kirby, their star player, who is now a member of the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team. Other key losses include Grace Cooper and Hannah Paprotna, who are playing in college, Erica Fanning, Ella Bloomingdale, Roxanne Augeri and Maisie Dembskie.

“We lost a lot of our starting lineup from last year but the underclassmen are really stepping up and we are working on our fitness and our skills as well,” Deveney said. “I think we’re going to do really well.”

Laine Ambrose, who has given a verbal commitment to Boston College, is one of the league’s best returning players. She will anchor the midfield. Ambrose will be joined by Deveney, who will lead the defense, and Maya Reiner, who is part of a strong forward line. They are the three captains.

Jess Leon is another leader at midfield, with Ava Ekholdt and Julia DiConza at forward.

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“I think one of the strengths of the team are we have a really good offense,” Deveney said. “We’re all very quick on the forward line. We have to make sure when we go at a defense we always have players upfield ready to score and keep the ball moving.”

Tapsall conditions his players as much as any coach in any sport. So the move yesterday to full team practices was welcome.

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“The tough part was keeping them interested and making sure they were pushed within the restrictions that we had,” Tapsall said. “Our guys were fit over the summer. It’s good that we got out but we didn’t need to have a designated area for conditioning. I guess it is because everybody needs to have the same baseline but we didn’t need that. We are pushing them harder now.”

The Wreckers are hoping if they can do well in a tough region, there may be an opportunity to still play Darien in the future.

“If all goes well we might be able to have a playoff at the end, so we might be able to play against those outside our region,” Tapsall said. “Ridgefield is going to be a tough one. If we can do well against Ridgefield, Wilton and Norwalk, that’s enough for these girls. Getting 10 games in these conditions is great for these girls.”

Deveney agreed with the glass-half-full attitude.

“Last year the seniors got to do it all four years and win states and we wanted the chance too,” Deveney said. “That was really cool. This year we wanted to make it five. We know it’s because of the pandemic and we are going to make the most of the games we have and try to win them all. Do the best we can.”