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Published on October 8th, 2017 | by Staples Soccer


Match Report: Staples vs. Stamford

All the elements were in place for a classic Saturday afternoon match at Loeffler Field.

The 6-2-2 Wreckers were hosting 7-2-0 Stamford.

Alumni came from as far as California for an “Etched in Stone” ceremony honoring players who died young. Former national team player/current NBC Sports analyst Kyle Martino ’99 served as host.

And, of course, there was a plot twist. Staples was missing its 3 keepers: Teddy O’Kane (broken hand), Ry Cohen (grandfather’s memorial service) and Matt Epstein (injured back). Will Birch — the starting central midfielder — stepped into the breach.

Birch more than filled the gap. His hands were sure, his positioning smart, and his pressure-filled decisions spot-on.

He was aided by a super-stout defense. Chris Martenson commanded the middle, making sure his backs slid laterally together, and pushed a high line. Nick Ambrose and Gabe Baltierra manned the flanks, marking tightly, sticking in hard and playing calmly when they won the ball. Ryan Fincher dominated the air, as the front defender.

The first half was Staples’. In the opening minute Matt Engler sent Timmy Liles through; his shot was saved by keeper Alex Grabar.

In the 5th minute Anton Mahr fed Patricio Perez Elorza. He sliced through the box — and his shot bounced off the goalpost.

Birch saved in the 10th and 11th minutes. The Wreckers gained confidence, knowing their 4th keeper could do the job.

Mahr had a challenging header in the goal area. He followed that in the 31st minute with a piercing run that earned a corner kick. His header off the corner was just wide.

Liles picked up a loose ball in the 34th minute, which led to another Staples corner.

Four minutes later Birch made his best save.

In the final seconds of the first half, Liles stuck in on a bone-crunching tackle. He won the ball — but sat the rest of the match, with a badly bruised foot.

The blue-and-whites opened the 2nd half with a corner kick. Birch punched out a save in heavy traffic 3 minutes later.

But the match heated up. As the hot sun beat down, Stamford started to come on.

With 23 minutes remaining, Mahr was shown his 2nd yellow card of the day. Suddenly, Staples was a man down.

They continued to battle hard. Birch made a superb save in the 67th minute. But the ball caromed directly to the foot of Laudo Cardona. He never hesitated, firing low for a sudden Black Knight lead.

The Wreckers refused to die. Engler launched a fine free kick. Steven Frost flicked the ball over the keeper. It seemed to cross the goal line — but it was cleared out by a defender. The nail-biting match continued.

Sam Liles shined with a 70th-minute effort. The Wreckers pressed forward — and so did Stamford. Their defense held strongly, as the match flowed back and forth. Staples was on the attack as the final whistle blew.

It was an exhausting day. Both teams were drained, physically and mentally.

But it was also an exhilarating one. Staples knew that if they could face such adversity — with a field player in the nets, down a man, with a couple of injuries to boot — and battle one of the other top teams in the state on even terms, then the rest of the season looks very, very interesting indeed.

The dozens of alumni on The Hill surely agree. FINAL SCORE: Stamford 1, Staples 0. SEASON RECORD: 6-3-2.

QUICK KICKS: Among the alumni traveling great distances for the “Etched in Stone” dedication were Tyler Mitchell ’97 (California) and Brad Tursi ’97 (Tennessee). The project honors Drew Tursi, Brad’s brother, a loyal Staples soccer fan who died last winter. Many alumni parents were on The Hill too….

The reserves beat Stamford 5-1. Wilson Daniels netted a hat trick; Benny Feuer and Nick DiMasi added solo strikes. Assists came from Andrew Marshall (2) and Mauricio Inglada. The match was officiated by varsity midfielder Patricio Perez Elorza — a certified referee — due to scheduling confusion for the original ref….

The freshmen bounced back with a solid 5-0 victory over Stamford. Marcos Inglada, Thomas Sandhaus, Haydn Siroka, George Smith and Alan Fiore all scored. Coach Russell Oost-Lievense lauded Sandhaus, Kyle Rotolo, Zach Pulichino, Aaron Jaffe and Sam Seideman for their strong performances.

Will Birch saves in traffic. Ryan Fincher and Matt Engler look on with great respect. (Photo/Alan Frost)


The defensive wall: Sam Liles, Matt Engler, Vaughan Sealey, Steven Frost. (Photo/Alan Frost)


Patricio Perez Elorza looks for options. Gabe Baltierra supports. (Photo/Alan Frost)


Steven Frost works the sideline against Stamford. (Photo/Alan Frost)


The freshmen watch the varsity against Stamford. Later that afternoon the frosh beat the Black Knights 5-0. (Photo/Alan Frost)

Wilson Daniels (left) is congratulated by Brad Cox. Daniels scored a hat trick against Stamford. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)


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