WATERBURY — It took a perfect finish to finish the Staples girls soccer team’s season.
Chloe Landers scored with 10 minutes remaining to give Glastonbury a 1-0 victory in the Class LL semifinals tonight at Municipal Stadium.
“Chloe is an amazing player and she made a quality finish — a perfect finish — on that play,” Glastonbury coach Joe Finocchiaro said after his third-seeded team earned a berth in Saturday’s LL final against top seed Southington.
It was the first loss of the season for No. 2 Wreckers and prematurely dashed their hopes of ending a 30-year state championship drought. The last two years Staples lost in the Class LL final.
Landers’ goal capped a second-half barrage by Glastonbury. Wreckers goalkeeper Marisa Shorrock and the Staples back line of Mia Gonzalez, Cailyn Lesher, Alexa Frost and Gabby Gonzalez tried their best to hold off the Tomahawks but allowed the deciding goal after containing Landers most of the night.
“We didn’t have much trouble with (Landers) for much of the game,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “But that was a really good goal. She found space in the box and finished.”
Staples appeared to tie the game with 2:55 remaining when Marlo Von der Ahe possessed the ball in front of the Glastonbury goal, turned and booted a shot past Glastonbury goalkeeper Maddie Hill. But the ref claimed the ball had hit Von der Ahe’s hand before the shot and the goal was disallowed.
“Marlo swears the ball hit her shoulder, but the ref had a better view than me,” Beattie said. “I’ll take his word for it.”
The season was not supposed to be finished this soon for the No. 2-seeded Wreckers (19-1-2), who lost the last two finals to Ridgefield. The Tigers’ hopes for a third consecutive championship were dashed by Southington tonight. Staples was coming off its first outright FCIAC title since 1995 (the Wreckers were co-champs in 2014) and was gunning for the school’s first state crown since 1989.
But Landers ended that dream. The Tomahawks’ captain – one of the best players in the state – took a cross from the right side from Maddie McGraw about 15 yards out from Staples goalkeeper Marisa Shorrock. Landers controlled the ball and quickly took advantage of her open space. Her kick beat a helpless Shorrock and found the left corner to break the scoreless tie.
“I wasn’t nervous because it seemed like a routine play,” said Shorrock, who did not allow a goal in Staples’ first two Class LL victories. “But it was a really good goal. It was hard to stop that shot.”
Staples had allowed just eight goals all season before tonight.
The Tomahawks (17-1-1), whose only loss this season was to Saturday’s opponent, Southington, 3-0 on Oct. 18, had several chances to score after Staples had the better of play for the first 20 minutes.
“They’re dangerous and we knew when you draw Glastonbury it’s going to be a tough game,” said Beattie, recalling that last year Staples got past Glastonbury 1-0 in the semifinals.
“We were a little nervous at first, a little emotional early and we wanted to settle the game down,” Finocchiaro added. “But we were determined to get that first goal.”
The Wreckers dominated the first 20 minutes, collecting five shots on Hill (nine saves) in the first 13 minutes. But the tide turned with about 15 minutes remaining. It started when a foul was called on Staples, giving the Tomahawks a free kick from 17 yards out and directly in the center of the field. But Sophia Desaulniers shot was deflected away from the goal.
Then, about seven minutes later, McGraw broke in alone on Shorrock. McGraw went to the left side of the goal but Shorrock came out to cut down the angle and McGraw’s shot when directly into Shorrock’s arms with about 20 feet of open goal to the right staring the Glastonbury striker in the face.
The Tomahawks continued to put pressure on Shorrock in the opening minutes of the second half but two good chances went wide and another flew just over the net. Their best chance came on another breakaway, this time by Samantha Forrest. Forrest let loose with a blast from about 15 yards out and to the right of the Staples goal, but Shorrock (seven saves) moved to her right and got enough of the ball to steer it wide.
Staples’ best opportunity in the second half came a few minutes before Forrest’s chance. Off of a corner, the Wreckers’ Mia Gonzalez attempted a header from in front of the Glastonbury goal but the ball bounced off the crossbar.
Landers then finished it . . . the play, the game and for the Wreckers, the season.
“It hurts but we know we’re leaving something behind that will continue to be successful,” said Shorrock, a senior.
“It’s an opportunity missed and a tough pill to swallow,” Beattie added. “But in the last four years we have made two trips to the FCIAC finals and two to the state finals. So when the girls get over it, they’ll look back at this as quality time at Staples.”