WESTPORT — When Evelyn Chudowsky set down the ball and placed a perfect penalty kick inside the left post, giving the Staples girls soccer team a 3-0 lead in the 32nd minute today against Wilton, it was a display of poise one expects from a veteran.
Only Chudowsky is a freshman and it was senior captain Lys Goldman who was taken down in the box.
“I’m nervous taking PKs so I was happy she showed initiative,” Goldman said. “Myself as a freshman would never have done that and I respect her doing it. It was an amazing PK.”
It was a melding of the old and new, the early story for the Wreckers as they defeated the Warriors for the second time in five days, 4-0, to remain unbeaten.
Staples won the FCIAC title a year ago and reached the Class LL semifinals, but was decimated by graduation losses. There was an element of the unknown — the return of veterans Gaby Gonzalez, Autumn Smith and Goldman but also a lot of underclassmen.
“It was a little bit of a question coming into the season how we’d replace those seven senior starters,” Goldman said. “The five freshmen on the team have been amazing. I think we have proved people wrong who thought we’d drop off after those seniors left and we can’t wait to continue doing that.”
Chudowsky and Presley Sutter are two of the freshmen who have made a sudden impact and they each scored twice today. Sutter is the younger sister of Reese Sutter, who played a major part in the team’s success the last three years, which included two trips to the state final.
“The two of them just want to score goals,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “They already play at a high level with their club and they play together as strikers. It’s not often you get the gift of two girls that come in and play together. It took us a couple of days to explain our tactical shape but once they got it you could see them moving the ball around, and they’re excellent.”
Old and new combined on the first goal by the Wreckers (4-0), in the 18th minute. After an even start between the teams, Smith, who minutes earlier was unlucky putting a ball off the post, took a hard shot that Wilton goalkeeper Erynn Floyd could not control. Sutter banged home the rebound.
“Presley took a nice position as the rebound came off the keeper and scored,” Beattie said. “You don’t see Erynn make a mistake like that. It gave us a little bit of luck but she’s a quality keeper, you could see it the rest of the game.”
Chudowsky answered off another rebound two minutes later to give Staples a 2-0 lead.
“It was important we were all connecting with each other’s passes,” Chudowsky said. “We were communicating.”
The Wreckers continued to be persistent with pressure, keeping the Warriors on the defensive. That led to Goldman getting fouled on an attack.
“I didn’t even want to think twice on that one,” she said. “I just went with it. I was like, this is my chance. It came to my mind and I didn’t want to double guess myself.”
The fact that no one questioned her at the time or after the game is a testament to the respect Chudowsky has already earned.
Beattie said it was the first time Staples had taken a penalty kick since 2017, when a state quarterfinal game against Trumbull was tied after overtime.
“It was brave,” Beattie said. “Every kid looked at me after the foul because we haven’t talked about who takes penalties. By the time I even considered it she had the ball placed. If a kid is that confident roll with it and let it go.”
Presley got her second goal in the 65 minute, finishing a beautiful centering pass by Goldman after a brilliant run down the right side.
Wilton, which is 0-2-1, was without two key injured starters, Shelby Dejana and Libby Connolly.
“They’re a quality side and they deserved to win it,” Wilton coach Renato Topali said. They’ve got a lot of talent coming in, year in and year out. Against a quality team you can’t give up early goals and bad goals. I thought the first 10 or 12 minutes we were very good. We had the ball, we had some decent opportunities, but we gave up a couple bad goals and when you do that’s fuel and they got momentum.”
Staples moves into a home and home series with Ridgefield, starting on the road Thursday. The teams were state finalists in 2017-18, with the Tigers winning both times.
“The group we had come out is good, the players coming back are good and for us to get a four-goal win and a three-goal win twice in a week against a team like Wilton says a lot about our kids because they’re a strong team.”