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Published on November 7th, 2013 | by Staples Soccer


State Tournament 2nd Round vs. Newtown: Game Report

When the Wreckers traveled to Newtown for a preseason scrimmage, the results were not pretty. Undisciplined play and a bad keeper error helped the Nighthawks to a 2-0 victory. Newtown then roared to an 11-3-2 regular season record. They reached the finals of the SWC tournament, where they fell on penalty kicks to Brookfield.

Ranked #7 in the state LL tournament, they hosted #10 Staples at Blue and Gold Stadium tonight. The match — on nice turf, made slick by daylong showers — promised to be a classic. The teams share mutual respect; the coaching staffs are friends, and there is a decade of history in the state tourney. The homestanding Nighthawks eliminated the Wreckers in consecutive years (2004 and ’05). In 2009, in the 2nd round in Westport, Staples squandered a 2-0 lead, then prevailed 4-3 in penalty kicks. They went on to win the state championship.

Tonight’s match started at a manic pace. Newtown plays quickly and well, using triangular passes to race upfield. They were on their game, and the Wreckers got caught up in a pace they did not like. But they were unable to slow things down, and the Nighthawks had the run of play for much of the 1st 40 minutes.

Yet, with Connor Weiler, Andrew Puchala and Gabe Pensak working well defensively, Newtown did not penetrate too deeply. They were dangerous, but their shots came either from long range or were rushed and high. Their best opportunities came off corner kicks, which they earned repeatedly. Keeper Noah Schwaeber was well positioned, and came through decisively when called upon.

In the 32nd minute, Staples had a great chance on consecutive corners. Puchala headed the 2nd one goalward — but no one finished.

Weiler saved a ball off the line, and it looked as if the Wreckers would go into halftime for a much-needed breather.

But suddenly — against the run of play — they struck. Diego Alanis launched a long free kick. Jack Scott — the hard-working, high-pressuring attacker — headed it sideways. Newtown keeper Eli Klorczyk attempted to save; Puchala knocked it forward; Alanis’ header hit the post — or something like that sequence happened. It was hard to tell.

What happened next is certain. Jack Scott was right there, and banged the loose ball home.

Suddenly up 1-0, the Wreckers spent intermission talking about how to protect — and build upon — that lead.

Earlier this season, they’d gone into a defensive shell a couple of times when ahead. That invited undue pressure; took them out of the match, and cost them.

This time, they emphasized the importance of keeping the ball on the ground. They talked about stepping up a bit defensively. They made some minor adjustments.

And when the 2nd half began, they were in control.

Newtown seemed unable to sustain their frenetic 1st-half pace. As the Wreckers possessed and moved forward, they gained a territorial edge. Now the match was much more even. Yousef Shahin and Jack Scott had room to operate outside. Joe Pravder found teammates on both sides from center midfield. Alanis and Charlie Leonard pushed forward. Nate Argosh, Graham Gudis and Daniel Perez Elorza spelled them when needed.

Behind them the defense — aided by Michael Reid and Patrick Beusse — bent, but never broke.

Newtown never pushed extra men forward. Staples now controlled the tempo. As the seconds ticked down, the Wreckers gained confidence. Weiler saved another ball off the line, invigorating his team. Shahin won a tremendous tackle.

And then it was over. No extra time; no last-second heroics. It was simply a brutally fought, hard-won battle. And — for the 1st time in this great rivalry — the visitors won.

A former soccer player who has seen many Staples matches this year compared Newtown favorably to Greenwich, the FCIAC champs and undefeated #1 seed in the LL tournament.

Certainly, it was a huge win. “This is the most coachable team I’ve ever seen, and one of the gutsiest,” said head coach Dan Woog. “They were under a ton of pressure, but they kept their heads. They listened at halftime, then they went out and got a big job done, in a big way. After all they’ve been through this year, it’s awesome to see. The coaches love this group. That’s why we’re so happy for them. They earned this one.”

The win vaults Staples into the state quarterfinals. They’ll travel to #2 Xavier-Middletown on Saturday, at a time to be determined. The upstaters edged Newington 5-3 on penalty kicks, after a scoreless draw. FINAL SCORE: Staples 1, Newtown 0. SEASON RECORD: 12-5-2.

QUICK KICKS:  Newtown outshot Staples 11-10, and led in corner kicks 9-3…

Other LL state tournament scores: Greenwich 4, Fairfield Prep 0; Amity 5, NFA 1; Glastonbury 3, Fairfield Warde 2 (overtime); Danbury 1, Fairfield Ludlowe 0; Ridgefield 2, Guilford 0; Conard-West Hartford 3, Wilton 1. In class L, Darien fell to Daniel Hand 4-0….

Newtown coach Brian Neumeyer — who coached Preston Hirten ’07 on the Samba club team — organized a fund drive in his honor tonight. Donations will go to Goals 4 Ghana, the group Preston served with in Africa 2 months before his death on the soccer field in 2009.

Diego Alanis’ header set up Jack Scott’s goal at Newtown. (Photo/Kim Lake)


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