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Published on November 10th, 2015 | by Staples Soccer


Staples vs. Hall – State Tournament 1st Round Match Report

Yogi Berra never said, “Half of soccer is skill, half is heart, half is intensity, and half is amazing pressure” — but he might have.

After falling 2-0 to Darien in the 1st round of the FCIAC tournament, the Wreckers knew that something had to change.

With freshman coach Chris O’Dell leading the fitness and mentality regimen, and goalkeeper coach Tom Henske adding his own special magic, the Stapleites put in one of the most single-minded 8 days of training ever. Concentrating on tighter defensive clearances, better pressure at midfield and up top — and a never-give-up attitude — they vowed to turn an inconsistent season around.

Seeded 20th in the LL (extra large schools) state tournament, with an 8-4-4 regular season record, they drew #13 Hall-West Hartford (11-4-1 regular season). The teams had met 7 times in the state tourney, dating back to a 0-0 draw in the 1963 finals (making them co-champs). The most recent encounter was in 2010, an 8-2 Wrecker semifinal win.

It rained all day, making the Warriors’ turf slick at the 4 p.m. kickoff. But Staples did not care. They came out of the gate faster than they had all year. It took nearly 10 minutes for Hall to even cross midfield. Aidan Wisher — moved into the attack — led the offensive charge. Daniel Reid and Spencer Daniels patrolled the flanks, with a trio of central midfielders — Daniel Perez Elorza, Daniel Brill and Graham Gudis — stuffing the middle.

Behind them, defenders Kenji Goto, Josh Berman, Jack Zeldes and Teddy Lawrence played high, and cleared well. Keeper Brenden Price barely saw the ball.

In fact, Staples outshot their hosts 7-0 in the 1st half. They had several golden opportunities, set up by Reid and Perez, but balls skittered across the goalmouth just millimeters away from being finished.

The best chance in the opening 40 minutes came from Daniels. His shot banged off the crossbar, from close range.

“They could have had at least 2 goals, in my opinion. They had the entire first half.” Warrior coach Zeke Seguro told the Norwalk Hour. He told his team at halftime they were lucky it was scoreless.

Hall came on a bit in the 2nd half, but the Westporters again had chances. There was end-to-end action, with the Wreckers doing a fine job of keeping the ball on the ground despite the rain and wind.

The Warriors scored first, against the run of play, off a nifty corner kick by Matt Drazen that was dummied twice. John Punt blasted from 25 yards out.

Staples refused to die. They pushed forward — often starting from deep in their end, as Hall did not retreat defensively at all.

They gave it their all, but the Warriors hung tough. A spectacular diving save on a blast by Gudis kept Staples off the board — barely.

Suddenly — with just 2:38 to play — Gudis fed Perez Elorza. He turned, then rocketed a shot into the far right corner, past diving keeper Jeremy Rausch.

It was a stunning goal — the kind of play Staples was known for in September, but faded in October.

Energized, the Wreckers poured on the pressure in overtimes — 2 periods of 10 minutes each, to be played to completion. The OTs resembled the 1st half. But once again Staples could not find the back of the net.

So it was on to penalty kicks. Staples is no stranger to these — in fact, they’ve won the last 6 times they’ve gone that route. But PKs are also almost a coin toss.

Four Wreckers made their kicks: Wisher, Perez Elorza, Gudis and Berman. But the middle kicker was saved — by 2nd keeper Tyrek Robinson — and when the final Hall shooter, Connor Sandstrom, made his, the Wreckers’ season ended with sudden brutality.

“I could not be prouder of our guys,” head coach Dan Woog said. “They can hold their heads high. Their season is over, but by the slimmest of margins. They know they can play with anybody. They’ve got disappointments and regrets. But I hope they also understand how much they’ve learned and grown. Soccer can be a cruel game. But it’s also a wonderful game. We’ve seen every side of that this year, for sure.” FINAL SCORE: Hall 2, Staples 1 (Hall wins on penalty kicks, 5-4). FINAL RECORD: 8-6-4.

QUICK KICKS: Staples outshot Hall 18-10. The Warriors led in corner kicks, 7-6….

The Wreckers graduate 10 seniors: Daniel Brill, Kenji  Goto, Graham Gudis, Andres Marmelo, Daniel Perez Elorza, Brenden Price, Noah Schwaeber, Grant Sirlin, Aidan Wisher and Jack Zeldes….

In other LL action involving FCIAC teams, #10 Danbury blanked #23 Wilbur Cross 3-0; #15 Wilton beat #18 Shelton 2-0; #28 Central upset #5 East Hartford 2-0;  #17 Fairfield Warde lost to #16 West Haven 1-0; #25 Trumbull lost to #8 Cheshire 2-1; #29 Norwalk lost to #4 South Windsor 4-1. Two games pitted FCIAC foes against each other. #11 Darien edged #22 Ridgefield 1-0 — and #14 Fairfield Ludlowe led 1-0 over #19 Greenwich with 2 minutes to go, but gave up a goal — then lost 2-1 on a Cardinal strike with just 13 seconds to play.

Daniel Reid works hard against Hall’s Jake Gilden. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)


Josh Berman heads out of danger, as the rain comes down at Hall. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)


Brenden Price gets ready to save. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)


The Wreckers gather before the penalty kick shootout at Hall. (Photo/Armelle Daniels)




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