WILTON — If the Staples girls soccer team attacks the FCIAC title the way it did the top seed in the playoffs this afternoon, a frustrating postseason drought might come to an end.
Needing a win to be assured of the regular season title for the third straight year, the Wreckers went on the offensive from the outset, scoring an early goal and dominating in a 3-0 win over Wilton. Only a magnificent effort by Erynn Floyd, the Warriors’ sophomore goalkeeper, kept the margin from being more one-sided.
“We had so much to play for,” said Marlo Von der Ahe, who scored twice for Staples (14-0-2). “We wanted to secure our spot as No. 1. We are very, very happy with the way we played.”
Staples will open the conference tournament on Friday at home against No. 8 Trumbull.
There was virtually nothing to cause Staples coach Barry Beattie displeasure. His midfielders set up shop and redirected balls into the Warriors’ defensive end, negating transition attacks.
“My girls were excellent today,” Beattie said. “They found a high level of intensity from the start. Moving the ball well, possessing through midfield. It was pretty much everything we work on. And it was good to play a tough team like Wilton and being able to use so many players. I was able to put six, seven kids from my bench on today, give key players rest. I was really proud of the team.”
Von der Ahe scored what proved to be the winning goal in the fourth minute, winning a delivery from Reese Sutter in the air and heading the ball home. Eleven minutes later, off a scramble in front, Gaby Gonzlaez found the back of the net to make the score 2-0.
Following a 1-1 tie last week against St. Joseph in which Staples was beaten to 50-50 balls and outhustled, Beattie challenged his players.
“After the St. Joe’s game I basically said that’s the intensity we have to find,” Beattie said, referring to his opponents. “And we will take it game by game. We will use the next three games as a mock FCIACs and we just reset every game and took it as a new game. They’ve fought very well the last three games and hopefully we can find that intensity over the next three.”
Staples continued to pepper Floyd with shots, a smart strategy on a drizzly afternoon, but she refused to concede. Floyd had no chance on Von der Ahe’s second goal, in the 61st minute. She took a pass on the right side and hit a ball on the ground that found the inside of the far post and caromed in.
“Their keeper played really, really well but we knew that we had to start really strong right from the beginning because we couldn’t start slow again like we did against St. Joe’s,” Von der Ahe said. “We knew right from the beginning it’s wet surfaces out here, we knew they were going to be a tough team and we had to go out and be strong.”
Flynn made saves sprawling like a hockey goaltender and leaping in the air. She gave up just one rebound but quickly pounced on it.
“She’s top class,” Beattie said. “Even corners on this wet day she comes out of the crowd and claims them. She deserves anything that comes her way. If any awards comes her way she will be getting my vote for sure.”
Wilton coach Renato Topali has had a front-row seat to enjoy Flynn’s acrobatics all season.
“I think she’s the best keeper in the FCIAC,” Topali said. “We’ve played all 16 teams. She kept us in the game today. She controlled the box, vocal. Just a leader.”
Staples’ Marisa Shorrock did not have the same workload as Flynn, but she was up to the task when needed. She smothered a good low shot by the Warriors’ Sophie Sudano when the score was 2-0. Moments later, Shelby Dejana crossed a ball from the right side that rolled for what seemed like minutes before finding Ashley Carbonier. Her shot was grabbed by Shorrock.
“They’re a quality team. Probably the best team we’ve played all year,” Topali said of Staples. “They deserve to be the No. 1 team.”
The loss allowed New Canaan to jump over Wilton and secure the fourth seed and quarterfinal home game against the Warriors (11-3-2).
“You never want to go into the playoffs with a loss so we just have to bounce back and show character,” Topali said. “What we need to focus on is staying in games the entire 80 minutes. There were moments when we were good and moments when we were flat and not focused. We gave up three goals on set pieces. We have to be little bit more engaged and not fall asleep for minutes in the game.”
Staples, the Class LL runner-up the last two years to Ridgefield, last won an FCIAC title in 2014. The Wreckers lost in the league final to St. Joseph two years ago and was stunned in the quarterfinals last year by Darien.
This is the last league tournament for the Staples seniors.
“Now that we’re finished with the regular season we have to put all our effort into the FCIAC games because we’ve gone into other FCIAC tournaments way too overconfident because we were the No. 1 seed, so if we just forget about that and restart like it’s a totally new season than I think we will go through and be successful, Von der Ahe said.”