2003: A NEW ERA BEGINS
- Thirty-eight seniors, juniors and sophomores arrive at 7:30 a.m. for the first day of pre-season practice. They are fit, eager and ready to work. New head coach Dan Woog — Jeff Lea’s longtime assistant, who replaced the 26-year mentor when he retired the previous winter — praises tri-captains Trevor Lamb, Dave Rotatori and Charlie Stoebe for making sure the team worked hard, physically and mentally, in the off-season. Missing is Rob Paniccia. The senior striker, slated to be an offensive sparkplug, is lost for the season following an August 1 automobile accident.
- After a week of training the Wreckers welcome Newtown — defending LL finalists — for a scrimmage. Both teams perform well in the blazing midday sun, but the only goal comes in the waning minutes on Matt Geringer’s 50-yard blast from the right. Two other events round out pre-season: a 2-1 loss to Guilford, and a 2-2 record against Wethersfield, Enrico Fermi-Enfield and Buckingham, Brown and Nichols (Cambridge, MA) at the Wethersfield Jamboree.
- The Woog era begins with a first-ever season-opening night game on Wednesday, September 10 at Brien McMahon. The starting 11 of Dave Rotatori and Sean Milligan (up top), Colin Nangle and Trevor Lamb (central midfield), Matt Bachman and Chris Meinke (flank midfielders), Charlie Stoebe (sweeper, replacing the injured Jon Zimmerman), Matt Geringer (stopper, in for Stoebe), Nick Renzulli and Dave King (outside backs) and Cal Mintz (keeper) play intensely but raggedly for the opening 40 minutes. At halftime Woog and assistant coach Paco Fabian counsel patience, and suggest ways of beating the offside trap. The second half looks better. Meinke nets 2 second-half goals, off feeds from Nangle and Derek Kennedy, keying a 2-0 victory.
- The Wreckers follow with another 2-0 win, in Saturday’s home opener against Trumbull. Zimmerman’s return after a 2-week layoff (thigh injury) allows Stoebe to slide up to stopper; both moves bolster Staples. Rotatori scores a minute before halftime, off Zimmerman’s throw; Meinke adds a 2nd-half goal. The Westporters’ 1st true test, against Wilton, ends in a 1-1 draw. Kennedy springs Meinke for the early lead, but a seemingly harmless foul 30 yards from goal lets the Warriors back in the match. They score following 3 quick headers, with just 13 seconds left in the 1st half. A 2nd straight tough game ends in a 2nd consecutive tie; this one, versus New Canaan, is 0-0. It is the first time all year the Rams have not scored, but Woog is displeased with his team’s lack of offensive punch, and the pressure keeper Mintz is facing.
- Staples travels to Sam Testa Field in Norwalk — site of the FCIAC finals next month — hoping to take a big step forward toward that game. The Bears are on a roll, scoring 15 goals in their previous 2 contests. The Wreckers have just 1, but tally 1st. Zimmerman’s long throw finds Kennedy in a chaotic goalmouth; his shot is thighed in by Lamb. That should give Staples quite a lift, but as happened twice in the previous week, they let their foe off the hook. Steve Centaempo’s tremendous 29th-minute bending free kick knots the score; the Bears pour on 2 more in the second half. “We don’t have the killer instinct yet,” Woog rues. After the game, he challenges his “boys” to become “men.”
- Harding provides a panacea, in the form of a 4-1 Staples victory. Next up is surging St. Joseph, but first the blue-and-whites receive a double blow. Zimmerman tears his hamstring while running in training, and will miss the rest of the season; then Lamb’s hip flexor flares up again, sidelining him. Woog and Fabian move Rotatori to sweeper — his 4th position of the year — while Geringer takes over right back. Renzulli shifts to left, Meinke drops into central midfield, Matt Bachman slides all the way to right midfield, and Charlie Reiter earns his first varsity start at left mid. The 11 click. With Stoebe — perhaps the league’s best man-marker — all over Matt Mones, the Cadet offense stalls. In the 29th minute Milligan sends a smart ball through to Nick Diamond, for the senior’s 1st varsity goal. Five minutes after intermission Meinke serves a long pass to Reiter. The sophomore waits patiently, then side-volleys a rocked into the far panel for a highlight-film goal — his 1st for the varsity. Mones cuts the deficit in half when he is bizarrely awarded a re-kick after bungling his first free kick attempt, but the Wreckers hold on to win 2-1.
- After a 2-0 victory over Bassick, Staples travels to Greenwich for a long-awaited Saturday morning encounter. Five Wreckers play for Card coach Kurt Putnam on Eastern FC’s premier squad, and emotions run high. With the Wreckers passing crisply and the defense — particularly Stoebe and Mintz — shining, the game is tense, action-packed — and scoreless. Just before the start of overtime, Woog tells his team of a new FCIAC rule. Just a few days earlier the league decreed that all OT matches be golden goal — not, as in Staples’ 2 previous overtime games, played to conclusion. The 1st 10-minute period produces no winner, but the Wreckers line up for the 2nd OT determined to do “whatever it takes” to put the ball in the goal. Four minutes in, a poor Greenwich free kick from deep in their territory gives the ball to Reiter. He 1-times to Nangle in the middle, who cocks his foot as if to shoot. But he sees Milligan open, parked in front of the net, and feeds the 6-5 junior — a stellar keeper still learning the field. Milligan draws Jonathan Grillo out, then calmly finishes. His 2nd goal as a varsity player — and 2nd in 2 games — is indeed “golden.”
- For a while, that threatens to be the highlight of the year. With Renzulli and King missing (disciplinary action) and Lamb still out, a patchwork lineup takes the Kennedy Stadium turf against Central. The United Nations-like Hilltoppers, under coach Declan Curtin, are enjoying their best season ever, and their speed kills Staples. At halftime Woog urges a more straightforward, direct attack; at times it works, though the Bridgeporters remain dangerous. With less than 2:30 to play a coast-to-coast counterattack climaxes with Brice Victor shredding the defense, then finishing low and hard to the far post. Woog says: “The better team won. We always want other teams to adapt to us, but tonight we couldn’t do that. In the end, Central found a way to win, just like we did against Greenwich. I’m proud we hung in so well, but in the FCIAC ‘hanging in’ is not good enough.”
- Two days later Ridgefield looms, away. Coach Al Diniz fields what might be the best team in his 30-year career — in his last season at the helm. With 17 returnees from last year’s FCIAC finalists, the Tigers are 10-0. They spend the 1st 40 minutes pounding Staples. Yet despite intense pressure the Wreckers yield only 1 goal, in the 30th minute. At halftime Woog asks for volunteers for 6 positions, and puts those who raise their hands onto the field. Midfielders Nangle, Meinke, Bachman and Lamb make Ridgefield work far harder than before. After 20 minutes, veteran Danbury News-Times writer Jim Stout tells Woog: “I can’t believe you’re still in this. You might steal 1 here.” But the larceny never comes. Alex Clark’s 2nd assist sends Staples to a 2-0 defeat — their 2nd straight loss.
- Their 3rd defeat in 5 days follows on Columbus Day in Westport. Despite outplaying 8-2-2 Danbury for much of the morning, the hosts fall early in overtime, when a high spinning ball eludes the defense. It bounces for what seems an eternity, before Rui Amaral nudges in the golden goal. Suddenly, Staples is 6-4-2. Only 4 games remain — and with them, only the ghost of a chance for an FCIAC playoff berth (this year, expanded from 4 to 6 teams.) The squad has not even qualified for the state “LL” tournament yet. Woog and Fabian challenge their team to win all 4.
- Trinity Catholic — always a cure for what ails an FCIAC soccer team — falls 9-0. Darien, playing at postage stamp-sized Middlesex Middle School, is far better than their 2-11 mark. But the Wreckers find their rhythm quickly. In the 10th minute Milligan flicks on. Lamb throws himself forward, scoring on a low header. Kennedy and Reiter add 2nd-half tallies, for a 3-0 victory. Two down, 2 to go.
- The Monday, October 20 match between 8-4-2 Staples and 9-4-1 Westhill lives up to its billing. Midfield maestro Diego Miranda and his Viking compadres have plenty of room to operate in the 1st half, but cannot capitalize. Lamb, moved up top in an earlier switch with Nangle, opens the 2nd half with 2 rockets. Both are saved by keeper Andres Ruiz, but augur good things. Nangle and Meinke tighten up central midfield, while Bachman — fired up after not starting for the 1st time all year — comes on like gangbusters both offensively and defensively.
- Still, Staples cannot solve Westhill’s backs. Then, with 10 minutes to go, Bachman races up the right side, swivels and serves a high arcing ball. Milligan skip-heads it along to Brian Kennedy. The junior twin of Derek sacrifices himself, surging ahead to touch the ball in for a hard-earned goal and lead. The Vikes throw everyone forward, but the hosts prove equal to the task. Staples’ young team finally proves themselves worthy of the “S.”
- Fairfield — the 4th and final piece of the puzzle — is anticlimactic. The Wreckers blaze out in front of an appreciative home crowd, and never look back. At 9:49 Lamb drills a shot across the goalmouth for Nangle to touch in. Staples is in full control, but 20 minutes later Mintz is called for a highly dubious penalty kick foul and the game is deadlocked. The Wreckers never complain or lose their composure, and 7 minutes later get a make-up call. Meinke buries it, for a 2-1 lead. Brian Kennedy nets the insurance tally — his 4th goal in 4 matches — and Staples has done what seemed improbable 4 games ago: They earn their way into the FCIAC tournament.
- Just 5 days after beating Westhill, the Wreckers entertain the Vikings — again in Westport. But the 5 days seem like 5 years, as Staples seesaws between believing they have a 1st-round match against Danbury, then Central (which loses its spot via forfeiture for an ineligible player), then finally Westhill. The Vikes, mired in a scoring slump reminiscent of Staples’ earlier in the year, key on Nangle and Meinke in the middle. The Westporters earn 2 quick corner kicks, but the visitors’ Diego Barahona strikes first in the 12th minute. Stoebe rallies his troops from his stopper spot with countless header clearances and runs forward, and almost draws them even in the 38th minute, but his header off a corner is saved by a defender planted on the post. Westhill coach Mark Lukas grows more intense with each passing minute. Seven minutes after halftime Nangle nearly equalizes; only a great kick save by keeper Ruiz keeps the purple side on top.
- Suddenly, 2 minutes later they have a 2-goal cushion. Miranda pounces on a dropped ball in the goalmouth, and the game’s complexion changes. But just as instantly it switches back. A lightning-quick 23 seconds later, Meinke tracks the ball into the corner and laces a brilliant cross into the box for Milligan. He leaps high, heading home while nearly in the goal itself. The Wreckers pour on the passion, creating several exciting opportunities. But Barahona’s 2nd score of the day, 11 minutes from time, changes things once again. The Wreckers throw another attacker forward, but to no avail. The Vikes have exacted revenge.
- Staples’ chance for revenge comes 10 days later. Ranked 15th in the “LL” tournament (on a 3-way coin flip), the Wreckers draw — Westhill. It is the teams’ 3rd meeting in 15 days — all in Westport — and this time the stakes are the highest yet. A fine drizzle and leaden sky remind the large Election Day crowd of classic Wrecker tournament games of yore.
- The Wreckers have a plan to avoid being burned by the twin Diegos. Nangle will mark Miranda at midfield, while Lee Solomon — a little-used but quick and tenacious junior — will shadow Barahona. Solomon practices against 2 tough alums — Chris Mitchell and Brian Sullivan — and learns his role well. The first half is even and scoreless, though Staples dodges a bullet moments before intermission when a Westhill blast rockets off the crossbar. But Nangle neutralizes Miranda, and Solomon shuts down Barahona so well, he scarcely touches the ball.
- At halftime Stoebe volunteers to take Miranda, freeing Nangle to move further into the attack. But less than 5 minutes into the 2nd half the Vikes flood the box on 1 of their 8 corner kicks, and Jonathan Estay sneaks in to head home a goal. Brian Kennedy nearly equalizes, but is denied on a great save by Ruiz. Just 10 minutes later Miranda’s free kick squeaks in. Reprising the FCIAC match, Westhill is up 2-0.
- Things look bleak, but when Westhill coach Lukas yells “Remember last time!” everyone knows what he means. Woog removes Solomon, hoping to add more offense. Seven minutes tick by, and suddenly it is 2-1. Meinke, seizing advantage of the wide-open right side, runs down a ball just before it rolls over the end line. Seeing Ruiz out, he turns the corner back into the penalty area. Brian Kennedy is there to volley the low cross in. Inspired, the blue-and-whites press the attack. Less than 4 minutes later Rotatori lines up for a direct kick 35 yards from goal. Lamb races forward to redirect the long inswinger past Ruiz. Staples’ on-field celebration is equaled only by Sullivan’s on the hill.
- The Vikings do not quit, and the final 14 minutes are played evenly. The game pounds toward overtime. Mintz — a rock in the net — makes a brilliant tip save on Miranda’s free kick in the first OT. A minute later he saves again; then Rotatori clears a near-certain goal off the line. He, Geringer, Renzulli and Stoebe continue to shine defensively. In the 2nd overtime, Staples has the better chances. But Bachman’s blast is saved, as is Rotatori’s stellar free kick.
- The teams assemble at the south goal for penalty kicks. Staples wins the toss, and elects to shoot first. Reiter nails his attempt; so does the Westhill player who follows him. Stoebe scores cleanly — and Miranda’s shot caroms off the right post. Renzulli also strikes true. The Vikes’ Zoltan Laszlo steps up. Staples’ junior varsity coach Darko Maric — excited as anyone — predicts “sky ball.” He is right; the ball sails onto the Jinny Parker field hockey field. The game is up to Meinke, Staples’ 4th shooter. The junior never hesitates. His shot is perfect, and the Wreckers win the War of Westhill.
- Which gives Staples the unenviable task of traveling to Naugatuck. The Greyhounds’ 3-year record is 54-1-2; they are 2-time defending state champions, and have scored 91 goals in 2003. But they have also given up 23, and the Wreckers concede nothing. Not even the sight of the tiny, wet, sand-marked field shakes Staples’ confidence. They come out strongly. Milligan nearly scores on a long ball with keeper Marco Gaspar drawn far out. But the shot is not strong enough, and a fleet defender clears it away at the last moment. Instead Naugatuck draws 1st blood, at 13:50, when small, stealthy Dan Reid sneaks back post to finish Dan Bochino’s corner kick. Reid strikes again 8 minutes later, finding the net on a flurry of shots off Nick Duque’s assist. But the Westporters halve the deficit 6 minutes after that. Reiter feeds a fine ball forward, and Lamb races on from 30, finishing with authority.
- In the 2nd half Nangle moves forward. Twice he cruises in on breakaways; both times, however, he misses by inches. Milligan does the same. As the half wears on, Stoebe catches fire. He battles ahead, leading the attack throgh force of will. Bachman and Reiter combine well on the right. Yet every time Staples seems ready to equalize, something or someone stops them. Naugy, meanwhile, counters strongly, moving quickly forward and preventing the blue-and-whites from gaining all the momentum or controlling the tempo.
- With 20 minutes to go, Staples adds a 3rd striker. They keep attacking, but so do the Greyhounds. In the 70th minute, the hosts’ speed and tenacity pays off. Duque feeds Mike Vanasse, and suddenly it is 3-1. Then, 6 minutes from time, it is 4-1. Almost like 2002’s 2nd round game — when Staples stayed with undefeated Newtown for 70 minutes, only to surrender 2 late scores — the Greyhounds ice it on a 3rd strike by Reid. The Wreckers head home satisfied they have given a good Naugatuck side a very tough battle; proud of what they accomplished in the final few weeks; sorry that all the fun they had will come to an end, and — for the returnees — filled with the knowledge that both the FCIAC and state tournaments are eminently winnable events.
- The annual banquet, held at Riverview Manor on November 23, features Kurt Dasbach — Columbia University assistant, and member of Westport FC’s state champion Over-30 team — as guest speaker. Dave Rotatori receives the Block “S” Most Valuable Player award, and Matt Geringer the Block “S” Most Improved honor. Dan Eidman gets the Alumni Award, Ben King the freshman Stephen Martin Award, and Jim Kuhlmann is named the posthumous winner of the first Jeff Lea Award. A silent auction organized by Bob Stoebe (to replace the rained-out carwash) raises $1,900
- Two players join the varsity for postseason action: sophomore Kyle Bergman and freshman Brendon Cristobal. Both play briefly in the final match against Naugatuck.
- Brian and Derek Kennedy are the 2nd set of varsity twins ever at Staples (interestingly, the previous ones — the Rikers in 1987 — also included a Derek). Waiting in the wings: freshmen Brendon and Keaton Cristobal.
- Darko Maric’s junior varsity end an excellent 9-3 season in spectacular fashion, knocking off previously unbeaten Fairfield 2-1 in overtime. The freshmen of Mike Dobbs finish with an odd 6-5 win over Fairfield, lifting their stellar mark to 11-2.
- The preseason jamboree at Wethersfield features a tribute to former players lost on 9/11, including Staples’ Scott Coleman.
- Preparations for 2003 include a “Weekend in the Woods” in Vermont, and a camp run by STA trainer and ODP regional coach Brian Kuk. During the season, the varsity, jayvees and freshmen conduct a used-equipment drive to benefit the Bridgeport AYSO program. Nearly 200 pairs of shoes, along with shin guards and balls, are collected.
- Glastonbury and Simsbury — two teams from the same CCC division — tie for the state championship. Ridgefield — arguably the best team in the state — falls in the semis.
TRI-CAPTAINS: Trevor Lamb, Dave Rotatori, Charlie Stoebe
COACH: Dan Woog
2004: THE SEMIFINALS, AND A SPANKING
- Ross McGibney, the Westporters’ eye-popping junior striker transfer from Ireland, debuts in a scrimmage at Newtown. Coach Dan Woog calls the 3 30-minute periods — a 1-1 draw, 1-0 loss and 0-0 tie — “abysmal,” but Staples looks sharper against Danbury (who they will not face in the regular season). For the 2nd year in a row, the Wreckers participate in Wethersfield’s pre-season jamboree, honoring victims of 9/11. This year’s event is extra-special: Staples inaugurates the Eagles’ new Field Turf stadium, masterminded by Neil Brickley ’71. Staples and Wethersfield draw 0-0; the Wreckers then trounce Kingswood-Oxford and Lewis Mills-Burlington.
- The regular season opens with a special 3 p.m. start against Harding. The Bridgeporters arrive late, and the match begins at the normal 3:45 time, but the delay does not hurt Staples. They score 1 of their quickest 1st-goals-of-the-season ever, when tri-captain Chris Meinke buries a penalty kick just 2:44 in. Forty-one seconds later it is 2-0, as McGibney nets his 1st Staples tally. After 10 minutes, McGibney makes it 3-0. By the 20-minute mark Woog has cleared his entire bench. McGibney ends up with 4 straight goals — perhaps a Staples record — in the 6-0 win.
- After a 2-day rain delay, the Wreckers head to Fairfield’s fine field. In the 36th minute Meinke draws out several defenders for a 1-0 lead, but 11 minutes after intermission Chris Lane evens the score. Staples’ 6-4 keeper Sean Milligan kick-saves a breakaway, then coughts up the ball but is spared when a Mustang shot into an open net hits the post. Three minutes into overtime Charlie Reiter curves a corner kick into the box; McGibney pushes it along, and central midfielder Jon Zimmerman shins it in for the golden goal win.
- A field change sends the blue-and-whites to McDougall Stadium, Trumbull’s Field Turf pitch. The fast, narrow surface makes for a speedy game. Staples seizes control, and just 4 minutes past halftime the left-footed Reiter right-foots in a shot off Derek Kennedy’s assist. With 20 minutes to go, the Eagles press hard. Matt Geringer, Dave King, Nick Renzulli and Colin Nangle defend well, but with 5:30 remaining a tussle near the edge of the box results in 2 different calls. Trumbull ends up with a free kick, which R.J. Allaire heads in from close range. Staples earns 3 of their 6 corner kicks in overtime, but the match ends 1-1.
- Their 3rd match in 5 days is against undefeated, unscored-on Greenwich. Confident, thanks in part to a clear scouting report by assistant coach Kurt Dasbach, the Westporters knock the ball around well for the 1st 20 minutes, then kick their game up a notch. McGibney gets the year’s first goal against the Cardinals; he then feeds Meinke for the 2nd score. A minute before halftime, McGibney pops out of a crowd to tuck in Zimmerman’s touch for a 3-0 lead. The reserves finish out the 3-1 victory.
- Staples stuns St. Joseph’s ODP keeper Tim Agvent for 5 goals, then shut out Stamford 2-0 in a match that features sophomore Keaton Cristobal’s 1st varsity goal. The Wreckers’ roll ends in New Canaan, however, as their 6th match in 12 days — and the traditional distractions of the Homecoming pep rally — take their toll. Jeff Leach’s score in the 25th minute stuns the visitors, but with 2 starters nursing injuries, and 1 more out, Staples’ furious rally falls short. Keeper Dan Ruth makes a superb fingertip save on reserve junior Tim Day’s breakaway, and the Rams win 1-0. It is only their 2nd victory ever against Staples — and 1st since 1964.The Wreckers get back on track against Wilton, again scoring goals in bunches. Again, however, they show a tendency to let up a late goal, making the score an uncharacteristic 4-2. Ridgefield is the next victim (4-1); then Westhill falls 3-0, on the Vikes’ fast Field Turf surface, followed by a delightful 4-0 nighttime win in the rain over Fairfield-Ludlowe, the 1st time Staples ever plays the “new” school (which this year has no seniors).
- That sets up a classic Saturday morning match against Norwalk. Both teams are 9-1-1. The Bears are coming off an emotional 3-2 loss to nationally ranked Central, in which they roared back from a 2-0 deficit, then lost on a deflected free kick with 9 minutes to play. The Wreckers are hurting physically, but no one bows out. They are ready for the game of the year. Lee Solomon drapes Norwalk star Steve Cenatiempo, and in the 11th minute McGibney gets the ball from Reiter, turns 180 degrees and fires for a 1-0 lead. Less than 4 minutes later McGibney strikes again, this time off an assist from sophomore Brendon Cristobal. After halftime, inexplicably, the Wreckers retreat into a defensive shell. The Bears pounce; Pat Scully, who tormented Staples last year, slices the margin to 2-1 with 11:39 to go, then Joe Funicello — moved up front from defense — finishes from close range with less than 3 minutes remaining, off a confusing free kick call. The 2 10-minute overtime periods are wild; in fact, with just 3.6 seconds showing on the clock, Reiter’s inswinging free kick misses by inches. The 2-2 draw stands — and Staples turns its attention to Central, 5 days away.
- The Central match lives up to its promise. With Solomon doing his usual lockdown job on Felipe Melo, 1 of 3 dangerous Felipes (the others are Ribeiro and de Freitas), and both the attack and defense clicking as well, the Wreckers grow increasingly confident. In the 46th minute Meinke serves a long ball, McGibney sneaks behind his defender and finishes with authority. Fourteen minutes later Zimmerman lofts a 30-yard shot that roots the keeper to his spot. The enormous hillside crowd immediately recalls the Norwalk game, when the Wreckers squandered a 2-0 lead. Those thoughts mount when, just 5 minutes after Zimmerman’s strike, the Hilltoppers halve the lead. But — learning from the Bears’ draw — Staples maintains their poise. They do not retreat defensively or change their style of play. And when the 2-1 victory is secure, the football players cheering the booters on charge the field, and tip over the goalpost in celebration.
- The regular season ends with 2 forgettable matches: 6-0 over Brien McMahon, and 2-0 against Darien. In fact, the highlight of the Senator game is McGibney’s seemingly endless quest to get a 3rd yellow card, so he can sit against the Blue Wave. He has 2 already, and they carry into post-season play. Try as he might, the referees do not assess it — until, with 1:14 to play, they have enough, and finally show him the card. The hill erupts in cheers.
- A bizarre 4-way tie for 1st place has the Wreckers believing they will be seeded 2nd behind New Canaan, based on head-to-head competition. But the FCIAC rules that total wins — not wins-plus-ties, as the CIAC uses — is the 1st tiebreaker, so Staples is #3, and misses a bye. Instead they draw Fairfield Warde, which squeaked into the 6-team tourney on the final day of the regular season when a series of results broke their way. Albie Loeffler Field is slick after an evening of light rain, and though both teams find the footing difficult, they also threaten well. For the 2nd time this year the 2 sides play golden-goal; for the 2nd time, the winner comes in the 4th minute of the 1st OT. This time, though, the Mustangs celebrate. Chris Lane races through when a defender slips, and finishes near post. The Wreckers pick up their heads, look to the state tournament, and vow to win their final match of the year.
- One of Staples’ goals has been to earn a high seed in the “LL” tourney, and secure at least 2 home games. They accomplish it, with a #7 ranking, and draw #26, 7-6-2 Danbury. The Westporters have not played a real match in 10 days, however, and Woog and Dasbach are worried. They are pleased, then, when the Hatters come out in a very defensive mode, with all 11 players behind midfield. Staples seizes the advantage, and McGibney’s goal at 1:13 is 1 of his easiest of the year. Two minutes later, Meinke roars into the corner and slices a ball that Derek Kennedy runs on and finishes. Five minutes after that, Reiter’s corner kick drops for McGibney to bang in. The Westporters lose focus after that, but right themselves in the 2nd half, and lengthen their lead on strikes by McGibney and Meinke.
- Hall-West Hartford (#10, 13-2-1) is a tougher test in the octofinals. National youth team keeper Kevin Sweetland is for real, but things look bright in the 12th minute when McGibney is fouled in the box. Staples’ scouting report noted that Sweetland starts on 1 post for PKs, then slides to the middle. The Wreckers had practiced against that the previous day — but the move works, and the shot flies wide. Their next best chance, in the 36th minute, is an almost certain goal by McGibney, but Sweetland flies out of nowhere to rob him. Woog and Dasbach counsel patience at halftime, and the blue-and-whites respond. Still, the clock clicks down, and overtime looms.
- Suddenly, Milligan outlets to Zimmerman. The central midfielder — a sparkplug all year — finds McGibney on the left. He dribbles forward, draws Sweetland out, then scores straight ahead, low and beautifully. Just 2:15 remains, but Hall does not concede. Sweetland moves up to midfield, and presses hard. But Staples hangs tough, and when the match is over, Woog praises his entire squad: Milligan for exellent positioning; sweeper Nangle for exellent vision, lateral movement and speed; defenders Geringer, Solomon, Nick Renzulli and Dave King for tough, hard play in the air and on the ground; Zimmerman and Reiter for controlling midfield; Derek Kennedy, Brian Kennedy and Brendon Cristobal for their transition work at midfield; Meinke for creating havoc in the corners, and McGibney for getting the job done with flair.
- Up next: old foe E.O. Smith-Storrs. The #15, 12-3-3 Panthers have just rallied from a 1-goal deficit to knock off undefeated Guilford in overtime. But the Wreckers take advantage of their unprecedented 8th straight home match, and pounce. Reiter smacks in a 1st-minute penalty kick; Geringer stubs home a goal in the 16th minute; McGibney collects Nangle’s long ball and finishes a picture-book breakaway, and McGibney added another in the 60th minute, off Reiter’s seeing-eye pass. All 21 healthy Wreckers play. Looking particularly strong are defenders Tyler Ross and Brian Carpenter, and keeper Robbie Kramer.
- So, for the 1st time since 2000, Staples advances to the LL semifinals. The match against Newtown — #2 in the tourney, #8 in the US, 20-1-0 — is hugely hyped. Wake Forest-bound Marcus Tracy is the real deal; so is his supporting cast. But the Wreckers are on a roll, psyched, and well prepared. Anything can happen.
- Anything does. Though the 1st 20 minutes sees Newtown limited to lateral movement, back passes and occasional long, testing shots, they get a goal midway through the period when Tracy bulls through and finishes clinically. Three minutes later, he puts on a dribbling exhibition, then feeds an all-alone Tony Magliocco.
- Down but not out, Staples spends halftime talking about teams that have come back from 2-goal deficits. The Wreckers did it twice in 2003 against Westhill; Norwalk did it this year against Staples. Nangle moves up from sweeper to midfield; Brendon Cristobal goes up front, to add firepower. Before the blue-and-whites can make the switch work, however — in fact, just 37 seconds in — Tracy plows over a defender and feeds Magliocco. Five minutes later, Tracy assists again. Seven minutes after that, he scores. On and on the Nighthawks come, piling on a 7-0 lead against Staples’ reserves. Finally, just 39 seconds from time, Robb McDowell heads in Geringer’s free kick to avoid a shutout.
- “I feel like General Custer,” Woog says. “Newtown did to us what we did to other teams all season long. They hammered us. We’ve got no excused. But we also have no regrets. We had a great run this year. After the game I told the team how proud I was of them, for all they accomplished this year. And I said that there’s no group I’d rather be with than the guys right in front of me.”
- The annual banquet, held at Riverview Manor, features Dr. Jono Sollinger (Staples ’86, Dartmouth ’90) as guest speaker. McGibney is named Most Valuable Player; Zimmerman is given the Block “S” Coach’s Award, but promptly hands it to Zimmerman. McDowell and Igor Pikayzen — who wows the crowd with his violin solo at the start of the dinner — share the Alumni Award.
- Brian Carpenter and David Sharpe are brought up from junior varsity for post-season play. Their JV team, coached by former WWE writer (and Dasbach’s former high school teammate) Aaron Feigenbaum goes 10-2-2. Brian Sullivan coaches the freshmen to a 6-3-3 mark; he also amazes the banquet crowd with his enthusiastic speech.
- Newtown wins the state “LL” championship with a 3-1 victory over Norwalk. Wethersfield — with All-America Robert Brickley, son of Neil ’71, captures the “L” title, 2-0 over Wilton. McGibney is named All-State.
TRI-CAPTAINS: Chris Meinke, Sean Milligan, Colin Nangle
COACH: Dan Woog
2005: THE MOST FAMOUS ELBOW IN WRECKER HISTORY
- The Wreckers open pre-season with a first-ever match against Masuk-Monroe. Both squads are young, but Staples shows more strongly. The Newtown scrimmage is fairly even, giving the many new Wreckers a bit of confidence. The Guilford game is played at Wakeman E – a first – due to maintenance on Albie Loeffler Field. And the third annual Wethesfield jamboree prepares the blue-and-whites for what is expected to be an intriguing year. With no clear-cut favorites in either the league or state, Staples has as good a shot at a title as any of the traditionally top teams.
- For the second straight year, a junior scores an extremely rare – and Wrecker record-tying – 4 straight goals in his varsity-debut season-opening 3 p.m. match against a Bridgeport team. Last year it was Ross McGibney; this year Justin Rodriguez comes off the bench to tally 4 straight. McGibney – now co-captain as a senior – adds 2 himself, in an 8-0 victory over Bassick. The season’s first strike, though, belongs to Keaton Cristobal. His 7th minute knee-poke starts with Matt Lamb’s cross. In the 23rd minute Rodriguez enters the match, then immediately serves a corner kick to Ben King’s power header. Rodriguez’s 3rd tally comes 3 seconds before halftime; his 4th, 14 seconds before the final whistle. The auspicious start against a less-than-ready opponent (the Westporters even construct and move the goals at Kennedy Stadium) is followed by a 7-1 win over a weak Fairfield Warde side, in the Loeffler Field home opener. Seven different players score 1 goal each; 6 get assists.
- Staples’ 1st test comes against a typically physically imposing, hard-running Trumbull team. The visitors knock the Wreckers off their patented possession game, but Staples perseveres. Brian Carpenter’s seeing-eye pass finds McGibney in mid-stride, for a 1-0 lead. But the Golden Eagles equalize 7 minutes later. Keeper Dave Sharpe makes a spectacular 2-fisted punch save with 5 minutes to play; co-captain Colin Nangle is denied nicely by keeper Dan Hajducky with the clock literally at 0:00. The young Wreckers – 7 juniors start – receive their 1st baptism in real FCIAC play. It will not be their last.
- On Saturday, September 24 Staples plays its first ever match on Greenwich’s fine, wide Nike Turf field. The Cards, with a punch-packing midfield, attack relentlessly into the corners. The blue-and-whites counter with quick-passing possession play. Greenwich lashes a shot off the post in the 1st half, but Sharpe and his back 4 of sweeper Craig Wolgast, stopper Ben King, and flank players Brian Carpenter and Nicky Hoberman (making his 1st varsity appearance, in place of injured Tyler Ross) stand strong. The 2nd half belongs to Staples. McGibney’s tough-angle free kick ticks off the crossbar. With 5 minutes to play, a feed from former Westporter and Chicago transfer Preston Hirten to Brendon Cristobal results in a millimeter-wide shot. The 0-0 draw is both disappointing and satisfying. Head coach Dan Woog, noting that Staples fielded only 3 juniors, predicts not many teams will pick up even 1 point at Cardinal Stadium this year.
- St. Joseph, coming off a 0-0 draw with highly regarded New Canaan, enters rainy Loeffler Field 2 days later with plenty of confidence. The 0-0 halftime score leads Woog and assistant coach Kurt Dasbach to urge more passes to the feet of ball handlers like McGibney, Brendon and Keaton Cristobal, Hirten, Nangle and Lamb. The Wreckers comply, but a play in the air becomes the most remembered moment of the 2005. In the 50th minute McGibney challenges the keeper sky-high for a loose ball. He earns a corner kick but in the process gets knocked to the ground, landing hard on his elbow. The result: a severe and gruesome dislocation. The loss of their star striker – perhaps the best player in the state – could shake Staples. But Nangle – McGibney’s close friend and fellow captain – rallies the squad. On fire, he allows nothing – not the steadily increasing rain, nor the Cadets’ own solid play – to contain him. The central midfielder roams far and wide, tackling like a monster yet controlling the entire field with steadiness and intelligence. He also scores twice: 6 minutes after McGibney’s injury, on a skittering free kick from 25 yards, and 5 minutes later by rebounding in Taylor Stuart’s rip after a kick save by keeper Bryan Pollack.
- Adrenaline, however, can carry the Wreckers only so far. Playing for the 1st time on Stamford’s new turf field – generations of Staples alumni will not mourn the loss of the former rockpile behind Boyle Stadium – the Westporters fall apart. The Black Knights’ 1-4 record is deceptive – it includes a last-minute loss to New Canaan and a tough defeat to a very strong Westhill side – but that does not account for Staples’ collapse. After missing a couple of gimmes early, the visitors allow Sam Flax’s 35-yarder to float in to the far post at 7:07. Brendon Cristobal’s header hits the post, his twin brother Keaton’s shot is inches high; then the roof caves in. Stamford pours in 3 more 1st-half goals – a long counter finished off by a header, an intercepted free kick knocked into an empty net, another off a weak clearance – and at halftime the Wreckers are reeling. Woog tells his squad they have a choice: a defeat that will turn the rest of the FCIAC into sharks, or 1 of the most memorable comebacks in Staples history. They seem on their way to the latter; just 1:30 after intermission Eric Meyer settles Nangle’s long ball, and squibs a shot in. 12 minutes later Keaton Cristobal finishes off Nangle’s long free kick. But just 22 seconds later the hosts get 1 goal back, on a counter, and despite a furious final 27 minutes, the final score is shocking: 5-2, Stamford.
- The blue-and-whites look equally dismal on a beautiful October 1 Saturday, in front of a large home crowd. New Canaan takes a surprisingly easy 3-0 victory. One game shy of the regular season halfway mark, 3-2-2 Staples looks at the remaining 9 matches – 6 against teams ahead of them in the FCIAC standings – and wonders if they’ll even reach the state tournament’s.500 qualifying mark.
- Five days later they introduce a revamped alignment at home against Wilton. Nangle moves from midfield back to his old sweeper spot, anchoring a 5-man defensive corps that also includes Ross, Carpenter, King and Hoberman. The Warriors manage only 1 shot in the 1st half, while the Wreckers – showing only 1 striker — fire 9. In the 2nd half 3 shots go in: 1 off a Nangle blast, 2 by Rodriguez. Staples follows up with an equally solid 3-1 victory over Westhill, in a well-played match on a very wet Loeffler Field. They are adjusting to life after McGibney.
- Suddenly, on Monday, October 17 – just 3 weeks after his injury – McGibney’s extensive rehabilitation pays off. He gets the go-ahead to play that night at Norwalk, and is in uniform on the bench. Facing the 8-0-2 Bears under the lights on their home turf is tough; doing so without Brendon Cristobal (red card suspension) and quickly improving Greg Bachman (sprained ankle) is even tougher. But the Wreckers are up for the challenge, and the 1st half is dead even. Rodriguez, Tim Day and sophomores Gennadiy Gurevich and Russell Oost-Lievense augment the usual fine work of midfielders Keaton Cristobal, Hirten and Lamb. A switch of sides by Ross and Carpenter pays dividends in the 2nd half. Suddenly though, against the run of play, Anthony Fraioli breaks free, his defender slips, and Norwalk leads 1-0. Ironically, McGibney is at the scorer’s table at that moment – waiting, with his heavily padded elbow, to make his 1st post-injury appearance. When he takes the field, his presence changes the game. The Bears concentrate on him, allowing Staples to attack relentlessly. Both Nangle and McGibney lace shots that keeper Michael Surace can only parry away. But the Bears do what they’ve done all year – they find a way to win – and the 1-0 loss drops the Wreckers’ record to 5-3-2.
- This being the FCIAC, a battle still brews. If Staples wins its final 6 games – no easy task, considering that (thanks to days of biblical rains) they’ll be played in an 11-day span, including a grueling 3-in-3-days-all-on-the-road stretch – they have a good shot at earning a league tournament berth. Nothing is given, of course – and they must watch the results of other matches, precisely the scenario they wanted to avoid. But hope springs eternal, and the Wreckers spring into action. The first obstacle is Central, away, but Staples lags 1-0 at halftime. With the season on the line, McGibney nets 2 – off a free kick from Lamb, and a feed from Nangle. Now the magic number was 5.
- A 10-0 victory over Trinity Catholic is remarkable only for an 11th goal that does not count. With the score 1-0, Brendon Cristobal’s 40-yard rocket hits the back stanchion, and caroms back on the field of play. The stunned referees do not allow the strike, though they apologize at halftime for “probably” missing the call.
- Brien McMahon, fighting for a state tournament berth, falls 3-0 on a true hat trick by McGibney. The shutout goes to backup keeper Brad Green, replacing Sharpe (sprained ankle during pre-training warm-ups). Less than 24 hours later, in Danbury, the Wreckers face another team battling to make the state tournament. After starting slowly the Hatters come on; the Wreckers, needing a win as much as Danbury, add 2, then 3, strikers. Inside 5 minutes to play, Lamb finds McGibney near the 18. He turns, and the ball is knocked left by a defender. Keaton Cristobal picks up the loose ball near the corner of the box, cruises into the suddenly open space, and slots a shot low and hard past the keeper. Cristobal shares hero’s status with Green, who in his 2nd varsity start turns in his 2nd straight shutout.
- The Ridgefield match – Staples’ 3rd in less than 72 hours — is supposed to be on the Tigers’ grass field. After they arrive, they are switched to the handsome – and extremely wide — Tiger Hollow turf. That – and Ridgefield’s Homecoming – are just more obstacles to overcome. Paced by Brendon Cristobal, who runs the show at central midfield and has his best match so far — along with good work from Hirten on defense and Nangle, who moves forward dangerously from sweeper, plus flank pressure from Stuart – the Westporters press the attack. In the 2nd half Green makes a spectacular save on a difficult ball. When Brendon Cristobal takes McGibney’s pass and beats the keeper to the far corner, the Wreckers are almost too tired to celebrate. But they have enough left to play lockdown defense, and keep pressure on Ridgefield for the final 20 minutes. They troop – wearily but happily – to the bus, knowing they’ve earned the weekend off. There is even an extra hour of sleep to enjoy, as clocks will be turned back to standard time on Saturday.
- The Halloween Day Fairfield Ludlowe game is anticlimactic. McGibney (2) and Keaton Cristobal key a 3-0 win, in which all healthy players se action. As they begin their cooldown run, and acknowledge the cheers from the Loeffler Field faithful, the 11-3-2 Wreckers know they have accomplished a tremendous goal. They’ve won their final 6 games, under tremendously adverse circumstances, and almost certainly earned a spot in the 4-team FCIAC tournament. But before they finish their run, cell phones and text messages relay the news: Somehow, Trumbull has upset New Canaan by the same 3-0 score. The Golden Eagles eke out the 4th spot, by 2 points. The difference: Staples’ 1-1 tie with Trumbull earlier in the year. Just as infuriating: Because the FCIAC has 19 teams, and the CIAC mandates no more than 16 regular season games, each team “misses” 2 schools a year. The Wreckers did not play Darien and Harding, who combined for only 4 victories in 2005; Trumbull missed undefeated Greenwich and .500 Stamford. But lopsided scheduling is part of the FCIAC, and the no-longer-weary Stapleites look forward to a week of rest, followed by a sure-to-be-exciting “LL” state tournament.
- Ranked 14th, Staples hosts 10-4-2, #19 South Windsor. The Bobcats are almost a mirror image of the Wreckers: good speed, solid midfield, well organized, a knock-the-ball-around mentality. They do not, however, boast a dominant forward like McGibney. The large Election Day Loeffler Field crowd enjoys an entertaining match. It’s 0-0 at halftime, but then Staples steps play up a notch. Action rolls back and forth. With 6 minutes to go Stuart strikes McGibney’s feed just high. South Windsor counters, and in the 77th minute Sharpe – returning after a 5-game injury absence (and 5 straight shutouts by Green) – saves the match superbly. The Wreckers head to their 1st overtime match of 2005 (this year, the FCIAC adopted a no-OT rule for regular season games). One minute in, Sharpe contributes an excellent kick save. Then, less than 3 minutes later, Gurevich – inserted to give Lamb a quick breather – uses 1 touch to cross the ball. The attempted Bobcat clear bounces in the air. Hirten leaps high to head the ball forward. McGibney – who is sick, and has had a quiet game — finds it 1st; he turns partway and smacks a shot home. The golden goal victory advances Staples into the round of 16 against their new nemesis: Newtown. The 16-1-1 Nighthawks are ranked #3 in the tourney, #8 in the US. And last year they thrashed the Wreckers 7-1, in the state tournament semifinals.
- The Wreckers walk onto windy Blue and Gold Stadium confident. They ride a 7-game, 6-shutout streak. They respect Newtown, but know that stellar striker Marcus Tracy is now at Wake Forest University. And when the match begins, and Staples sees the Nighthawks’ best player, Mark Doherty, deployed in a primarily defensive role, to contain McGibney, they push forward. The Wreckers’ game plan is to invite Newtown to try to play the ball out of the back, then apply pressure. The result is a strong 1st half, with much of the play in Staples’ offensive half. The Westporters lead in shots 7-2 – but the halftime score is 1-0, Newtown. The goal comes at 31:11, against the run of play. Doherty’s free kick from the corner of the 18 finds Chris Hoagland’s dead-on header.
- Staples’ 2nd-half adjustment sees Oost-Lievense come on as a 2nd forward. Just seconds after play resumes Ross roars up from the back, ripping a shot that keeper Louis Ritzinger barely tips over the top. But the Nighthawks retaliate, and up the score to 2-0 in the 46th minute when Tony Magliocca pounces on a loose ball in the box. The Wreckers storm right back, halving the deficit 55 seconds later. Oost-Lievense plays an indirect kick to McGibney. He drives to the far corner, then crosses to the far post. King – the tall central defender who comes up on set pieces – drills a diving header off the post, and in.
- Re-energized, the Wreckers pour it on. Oost-Lievense, McGibney, Lamb, Hirten, Stuart, Brendon Cristobal and Keaton Cristobal apply relentless pressure, winning 50-50 balls, loose balls and 2nd balls. They attack with power and poise. Behind them, defenders King, Nangle, Hoberman and Ross keep Newtown at bay for long stretches. But the home side repel every threat. They use the clock well, and counter often enough that the Wreckers cannot commit anyone else forward. For the 2nd straight year – and the 3rd in 4 – the Nighthawks end Staples season. This time, though, there are no hung heads or regrets. It is the Wreckers’ finest performance of the year. Woog says: “I am immensely proud of our guys. They’ve done all we asked of them, and more. They ran the show beautifully today. They found like tigers. We didn’t win on the scoreboard, but we won a bigger battle. Today our guys turned into men.”
- Colin Nangle (Block “S” Most Valuable Player), Tyler Ross (Block “S” Most Improved Player), Tim Day (Alumni Award) and Frankie Rende (Stephen Martin Award) are honored at the banquet, at Riverview Manor. Todd Coleman is the guest speaker. Nangle and McGibney are All-State selections; McGibney is the Norwalk Hour All-Area Player of the Year, while Nangle is named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Academic All-Region team.
- Varsity team members not listed above include Alex Gendell and Stephen Ogilvy…
- Coach Aaron Feigenbaum’s junior varsity finish the season 7-3-1, while Chris Odell’s freshmen are 8-1-1.
- On the day keeper Dave Sharpe sprained his ankle in pre-training warm-ups, reserve Brad Green was home sick. Russell Oost-Lievense ran up to Wakeman to fetch Liam Bohonnon and Sanders McNair from the junior varsity and freshmen, respectively. Both trained with the Wreckers for a week.
TRI-CAPTAINS: Ross McGibney, Colin Nangle
COACH: Dan Woog
2006: ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS
- The first day of pre-season foreshadows a special year. Over 100 boys try out for the varsity, junior varsity and freshman squads. Sorting those numbers out is no easy task – in fact, JV coaches Matt Killian and Scott Huddy keep 27 players, thanks to the addition of a half dozen extra matches by athletic director (and, 24 hours before pre-season begins, new girls varsity coach) Marty Lisevick. Finding space to try out is difficult too – monsoon-like rains the first week, and a townwide power failure, force the Wreckers to shuttle to Coleytown Middle School and the fieldhouse.
- But the players persevere, and after a decent pre-season – including a dynamic win over Wethersfield, a lackadaisical effort at Guilford, and a 1-1-1 record at the annual Wethersfield jamboree against Kingswood Oxford, Wethersfield and Lewis Mills-Burlington – the senior-laden Wreckers (17 on the 25-man roster; 9 starters) are ready for anything.
- For the 2nd time in 4 years the season begins under the lights, this time at Fairfield Ludlowe. The Falcons’ Nick Swan unleashes a throw-in so lethal, Staples prefers to cede corner kicks, but in the 2nd half the Westporters wear their hosts down. Seconds before halftime Preston Hirten races 70 yards up the right side; he chips a ball to Matt Sych who heads through a crowd, and in off the far post. In the 69th minute tri-captain Brendon Cristobal backheel-flicks Matt Lamb’s corner kick; 2 minutes later tri-captain Keaton Cristobal connects on a rare 30-yard over-the-wall-direct kick.
- A trip to St. Joseph is memorable only for the deplorable field conditions. Once again Staples strikes late in the 1st half (38:40); once again the Wreckers come on strongly in the 2nd half to post a 3-0 win. By the end of the match, with rain pouring down, the Cadets’ field is virtually unplayable – but play Staples does.
- A 4-0 victory over Darien sets up a night match with similarly undefeated Trumbull. It’s all Staples for the 1st 25 minutes; slowly, the Golden Eagles battle back. For the 3rd time in 4 games the blue-and-whites score moments before halftime, Brendon Cristobal pouncing on a loose ball in the goalmouth. But the hosts come out fighting after intermission. Play turns chippy, with 2 yellow cards to Trumbull and 1 to Staples’ Mike Smith, before Ben King makes the play of the day, racing back to clear the ball off the line on a breakaway. With Staples receiving the lion’s share of calls, assistant coach Kurt Dasbach predicts a strange make-up call against the Wreckers. In the 68th minute, it comes. Keeper Dave Sharpe is called for handling the ball outside the box on a routine punt. Trumbull skims the free kick in off the wall. For the 3rd straight season, the teams tie 1-1.
- A 7-0 demolition of Harding is notable only for the unveiling of “Staples,” stenciled in large letters at the base of the almost-completed hillside terrace. That’s followed by a 4-0 shutout at Fairfield Warde, leading up to a big Friday afternoon contest at New Canaan’s Conner Field. The defending class “L” champs are struggling under new coach Bill Whittaker, but they show their traditional well-organized, defensive-minded lineup – including All-American Jeff Leach at sweeper. Staples attacks relentlessly, and in the 20th minute tri-captain Matt Lamb – injured, and inserted for the 1st time a few minutes earlier – buries a penalty kick. In the 2nd half Leach moves into midfield, sparking the Rams. Sharpe – with a solid punch save in the waning minutes – and defenders Smith, Nicky Hoberman, Greg Bachman, Ben King and Craig Wolgast – helps seal the tight 1-0 win.
- Wilton’s nice, newly turfed Kristine Lilly Field is the site of the next contest. Despite early pressure it takes 16 minutes to solve the Warrior defense. But 42 seconds after Brendon Cristobal’s goal, Hirten makes it 2-0, and Brendon Cristobal 3-0. In the 2nd half Staples moves in for the kill, winning 5-1 and prompting this comment from Wilton coach Jim Lewicki: “You guys are not flying under the radar any more.”
- The October 6 contest between 7-0-1 Staples and 6-0-1 Westhill – on the Vikings’ very fast, fairly small turf – is predicted to be a classic. The hosts set the tempo early on. But the Wreckers dig in, defend well, and in the 21st minute go up 1-0 on a blast by Bachman. The Vikes get the equalizer 3:53 before halftime, though, and that propels them into the 2nd half. Alon Trappler’s 2nd tally of the day gives his side the 56th-minute lead. Yellow cards come out – to Westhill, to Hoberman and to Keaton Cristobal – and the action intensifies even more. With the clock on the field Brendon Cristobal appears to be hacked in the box. The lead official brings his whistle to his mouth – then signals for a goal kick. The Vikes win – and the no-longer-undefeated Stapleites take a long bus ride home.
- The heart of the season continues, with Ridgefield arriving at Loeffler Field. The packed terrace cheers as Staples scores a pair of 1st-half goals – but both are called back. For the 1st time in 10 games, Staples does not score in the opening 40 minutes. Then, just 11 seconds into the 2nd half, Staples falls behind 1-0 for the 1st time, following a giveaway in the back. The Wreckers struggle all match to get their rhythm; finally, in the 55th minute, Keaton Cristobal drives a long free kick downfield. Brendon Cristobal runs on and equalizes. In 2 games, the Wreckers have picked up only 1 point.
- They hope to regain their momentum against 6-2-1 Norwalk. The day after a rousing training session at Compo Beach, the Wreckers are ready. After 16 minutes – thanks to goals by Russell Oost-Lievense (2), Lamb and Wolgast – they lead 4-0. It’s 5-1 at halftime, and head coach Dan Woog opens the 2nd half with 11 reserves. The Bears keep star Mike Fraioli going forward; he sparks his team, and the game ends with the decidedly un-soccerlike score of 7-3.
- Four days later, the Wreckers have more than soccer on their minds. The day after Norwalk, they attend the funeral of the father of popular junior varsity player Adam Liu. Forty-eight hours after that, on Sunday afternoon, John Sych – a former Staples soccer player, and father of senior striker Matt Sych – dies of a massive heart attack. But Sych wants to play, and on a somber afternoon gives a masterful and inspiring performance. He scores 3 goals, and adds 1 assist, pacing his team to an 8-1 victory over Trinity Catholic.
- Five days later, on Saturday, October 21 – a brilliant fall morning — the hill is jammed. The terrace is formally dedicated, and an enormous crowd settles back to watch a titanic match between 9-1-2 Staples and 9-1-3 Greenwich. The Cards draw 1st blood, just 3:15 in, on a rare own goal. But the Wreckers shrug off the mishap, and less than 6 minutes later Brendon Cristobal slams in Hirten’s rebound. Seven minutes after that Hirten powers a tough-angle shot over the keeper from the far right corner. Keaton Cristobal makes it 3-1; then, in a chippy 2nd half, Oost-Lievense and Keaton Cristobal up the lead to 5-1. Greenwich cuts the lead on a goal by Austin Bowers, but Justin Rodriguez buries Sych’s rebound to make the final tally a remarkable 6-2.
- Still uncertain of a playoff berth in the very tight FCIAC race, the Wreckers rampage past Central 8-0, nip a surprisingly strong Brien McMahon side 1-0 (Oost-Lievense shreds the last defender and keeper for the game-winner), then finish the regular season 13-1-2 with a 1-0 win over Danbury. Wolgast gets that goal, pushing forward and following up an Oost-Lievense shot.
- Entering the FCIAC tournament after a 1-year absence, Staples – the Number 1 seed (and winner of the Ralph King Cup for the team with the best league record) – faces #4 Greenwich in a night match at Fairfield Ludlowe High. No one expects a repeat of the 6-2 rout 10 days earlier – but no one expects quite as dramatic a finish, either.
- The game starts quickly. The Cards are marking Brendon Cristobal and Hirten much more tightly, and the 1st half ends deadlocked. Staples takes a bit more control in the second half. Greenwich collects 2 yellow cards. Sharpe saves huge several times. Regulation ends with Brendon Cristobal 20 yards from goal, on a breakaway.
- Overtime – 2 sudden-death periods of 10 minutes each – is an endurance contest. Play grows ragged, but both teams have legitimate chances to win. With a minute to go, and penalty kicks looming, a Card cramps up. With the clock stopped prior to a direct kick, Lamb carefully places the ball on the far right side, 35 yards from goal. His long ball spirals outward; King – the tall center back who goes up often for set plays, but had not found the net all year – leaps high and heads squarely into the back of the net. There are just 50 seconds left on the clock. The entire team mobs King. For the 29th time in 48 years – but the 1st since 2000 – Staples heads to the FCIAC finals.
- The rematch pits the FCIAC’s top-seeded team against Trumbull, at 13-0-4 the only undefeated squad. Wilton’s Kristine Lilly field is jam-packed; under a full moon. Joe Rio and his officiating crew call a tighter match that the Wreckers saw at Trumbull. Hoberman is a dynamo on defense, while Hirten’s runs create dangerous opportunities. The match evens up after intermission; the field grows slippery, and neither team controls for long. Alex Gendell comes off the bench to perform strongly on defense, while Wolgast continues to shine.
- In overtime Staples finds its 2nd wind. In the 97th minute a shot deflects high in the air, toward the goal line. Brendon Cristobal heads strongly, but keeper Dan Hajducky leaps to snag it. It appears his momentum carries him over the line, but Rio rules that Cristobal fouled him. Trumbull’s 2nd yellow card comes with 56 seconds to play – and 56 seconds later, the Wreckers are co-champs. Neither team knows how to react; they trudge to the center circle, neither celebrating nor despondent. In the absence of 2 sets of trophies, medals and MVP awards (Lamb shares the honor), the Wreckers go home with no hardware. They vow to earn some in the class “LL” (extra large schools) state tournament.
- Seeded 7th, the Wreckers host #26 Manchester. Following several down-to-the-wire matches, Woog and Dasbach expect their charges to be off their game – and they are. The balmy weather contributes to a lethargic match. Staples scores at 30:05, when Brendon Cristobal wins a tackle, powers through on the endline near the kickboard. The Indians put a scare into the large crowd in the final 5 minutes, with a pair of breakaways and a couple of dangerous free kicks, but when Sharpe is not saving surely, the upstaters shoot wide.
- That brings Xavier-Middletown to town. The 15-3-1, #10 Falcons arrive after a 1-day rain delay. The field is muddy, but there is bright sunshine and the temperature on November 9 is near 70. Xavier plays very directly, and at halftime the match is scoreless. Ten minutes after intermission, Gendell wins a solid tackle and punches the ball upfield to Brendon Cristobal. He works his magic, then lays a seeing-eye pass diagonally into the box. Hirten – virtually unmarked – first-times a shot into the upper right corner. The Wreckers celebrate, but Hirten collapses in front of the bench with dehydration. He is transported to Norwalk Hospital, where he receives IV fluids. The Wreckers catch their breath, clear their heads and get ready for a tough final 30 minutes.
- Xavier comes back strongly, forcing Sharpe into a point-blank save on a header; then Lamb – well positioned on the goal line – heads a spectacular bicycle kick out of danger. In the 68th minute Keaton Cristobal makes the best of a botched free kick, bobbing and weaving through 4 defenders before finishing powerfully from 6 yards out. The Indians, frustrated, receive 3 yellow cards and 1 red, all in the final 5 minutes. The Wreckers are gaining momentum.
- They take to the road for a Saturday evening quarterfinal match, against Farmington at Tunxis Mead Park. This is the 1st-ever meeting between the Indians – in the 2nd year of LL, following a run as a class L powerhouse – and Staples. On paper, Farmington has the edge: They’re 17-0-1, seeded 2nd, and 24th in the country. But observers who have seen both sides play predict an excellent matchup.
- For the first 10 minutes, the hosts do to Staples what they do to most teams: dictate the tempo and style of play, and dominate. They attack relentlessly, with precision and power, and for the 1st time all year the Wreckers are under the gun. But against the run of play, Hirten feeds Keaton Cristobal. The tri-captain rips a shot, forcing keeper Josh Sidoti into a great save, and suddenly all bets are off.
- With Sharpe saving time and again; the defense of Hoberman, King, Wolgast, Bachman and Gendell growing stronger minute by minute, and the offense jelling, Staples gainst confidence. Overtime – the Wreckers’ 3rd in 5 games – sees them continue to attack. Brendon Cristobal almost ends it 1 minute in, but his shot whistles 6 inches over the bar. After 2 scoreless OTs, the squads assemble near the south goal for penalty kicks. Farmington inserts a new keeper – freshman Stephen Kiss – while all 26 Wreckers stand together, their arms around each other, just as Germany did 4 months earlier in the World Cup.
- Sharpe – the hot keeper – shoots first, and scores. So do the other Stapleites – Taylor Stuart, Oost-Lievense, Lamb and Hirten. But all 5 Indians nail their shots too. Another 5 kickers get ready. All will go – in state tournament penalty kicks, there is no sudden death. Sych nails his; so does Farmington. Hoberman strikes gold – and then Sharpe saves. Number 8 is reserve keeper Brad Green; he scores. So does Farmington. Sean Soderstrom is true – and once again, Sharpe saves the Indian kick. The Wreckers drop their linked arms, and engulf Sharpe. They head to the finals – and Farmington, suffering their only defeat of the year, heads home. Fans on both sides shake their heads; no one recalls seeing 9 penalty kickers make all their shots, at any level of soccer.
- It’s on to the semifinals. Once again the night is unseasonably warm; once again the crowd is large and vocal. This time the game is played at a neutral site: Nonnewaug High, in rural Southbury. The field is turf, but only 64 yards wide. The Wreckers would prefer a wider surface, to spread play away from Hall-West Hartford’s 6-5 central defender, Paul Visgilio. They execute decently in the 1st half, and almost get 1st-half scores from Lamb and Brendon Cristobal.
- From the 60th minute on, Staples is particularly impressive. But the match wears inexorably to overtime, an exceedingly familiar period by now. The Westporters play in OT is crackling. Visgilio is shown a yellow card (Hall’s 2nd) just 4 seconds from the end of the 1st 10-minute session. Lamb’s ensuing free kick hits the wall, and keeper Jason Cohen punch-saves at the buzzer. The 2nd OT finds the Warriors a bit disorganized without their big back, but they have their best opportunity of the day just 2:30 from time. Sharpe comes up huge on that close-in shot. Unbelievably, the Wreckers head to their 2nd penalty kick match in 96 hours.
- Woog and Dasbach ask the 10 kickers who volunteered Saturday if they want to shoot again. All do. Once again, Staples wins the coin toss; once again, they elect to kick 1st. The order remains exactly the same. After Sharpe, Stuart and Oost-Lievense score, Sharpe saves on a ball struck down the middle. Lamb, however, hits high, evening the tally at 3-3. Hirten tallies; so does Hall, and the teams are once again dead even after 5.
- Sych and Hoberman score easily; Green’s shot hits the keeper, but sails into the net. Soderman – the 9th shooter – scores left. The Warriors have matched Staples so far – but their 9th kicker hits the left post. The entire season rests on the foot of junior defender Mike Smith. He blasts his shot into the back of the net, right side, then jubilantly leads the celebratory charge of all 26 players. For the 16th time overall – but the 1st in 10 years — the Wreckers head to the state finals.
- The “LL” title game is delayed a bit, when New Canaan and Fermi engage in a wild, back-and-forth overtime match to determine the L champion (the Rams prevail, 4-3). New Britain’s Willowbrook Park is an excellent site: a big grass field, well lit, with plenty of room for rabid fans from both schools. Staples has a fan bus; Simsbury counters with cheerleaders.
- The Wreckers hope to be the 1st team since 1981 to win an FCIAC and state title in the same year – and back then, the finals was against Simsbury too (a 1-1 draw). After an initial feeling-out period, the Westporters go on the attack against the #4, 19-1-0 Trojans. They pound relentless, and just 11:28 in strike gold. Brendon Cristobal flicks to Preston Hirten, who takes a touch inside and beats his man to the middle. His hard shot hits keeper Brian Ward’s foot, and bounces straight up. But Hirten bulls forward, and smacks in his own rebound. It is the Wreckers’ 1st goal in 3 games, and they want more.
- In the 13th minute Hirten is saved by Ward’s foot; 2 minutes later, Oost-Lievense deals well, but shoots wide. The offensive onslaught continues. In the 37th minute Hirten turns – and hits Ward. At halftime, Woog and Dasbach urge the blue-and-whites to continue attacking relentlessly, and finish off their foes.
- But in the 2nd half, momentum swings Simsbury’s way. In the 53rd minute they force Sharpe into an excellent save. Five minutes later they equalize. A Trojan is fouled, but holds on; he dribbles, shoots wide – and is then given a free kick, with the referee ruling “no advantage.” Ian Evans connects on a goalmouth scramble, following Ian Zabel’s long service. It is the 1st goal surrendered by Staples in 9 games – a remarkable stretch of 869 minutes.
- King is forced to the sideline with an injury; other Wreckers also feel the effects of their 7th tough game in 18 days. But no one wants out; the senior-dominated squad is determined to pull this one out as they’ve done all year long. Sharpe comes up big in the 72nd minute. Eight minutes later, the teams head to overtime. It is Staples’ 3rd consecutive OT contest, and 5th in their last 7 matches.
- The end comes suddenly, midway through the first overtime. An innocuous play 35 yards from the Westport goal results in a ball to the right side. Zabel lofts a shot that curves over everyone, bending and dipping. Finally it nestles into the far netting. It is a shot the Trojans will relive for years – and the Wreckers will take a long time to forget.
- Staples slumps to the ground in despair; Simsbury goes wild. It is a rare scene: only the 2nd defeat of the year for the Wreckers. The finality is stunning; justlikethat, the magical season is over. They gather together one last time, and give one last “Staples!” cheer. “We just ran out of gas,” Woog says. “And we ran out of time. It’s a tough, tough way to end. If we had gotten 1 or 2 more in the 1st half, it would be a completely different story. But we didn’t, and that’s part of the game. Give all the credit in the world to Simsbury. They came back, and won it on a championship shot. I’m sorry for this great, great group of young men. They’ve had an amazing run. I wouldn’t trade them for any other team in the world.” On the bus ride home, tears give way to a feeling of pride. And when the Wreckers walk into the Sherwood Diner, at 11:30 p.m. their hardcore fans who are already there rise and applaud them for a great game, an excellent effort, and a truly magnificent season.
- The Wreckers’ 18 wins ties them with the 1981 team for the 2nd most win in the program’s history. Their 64 goals is the 3rd highest total in Staples history, behind only the 1992 team (an astonishing 91 goals), and ’93 (65). Their 23 matches is the most ever played by a Staples team.
- The last time Staples went all the way to the finals without playing an FCIAC team was 1973.
- At the banquet – held back at Continental Manor, because Riverview Manor is closed for renovations – Dave Sharpe is voted Block “S” Most Valuable Player, and Craig Wolgast is named Block “S” Most Improved. Matt Lamb receives the Alumni Award, while freshman Nick Cion gets the Stephen Martin Award.
- Players not previously mentioned include Eric Meyer, Brett Kaplan, Matt Hammer, Gennadiy Gurevich, Jackson Lesser, Liam Bohonnon, Mateo Gaviria and Frankie Rende. Sanders McNair was called up for post-season play.
- The junior varsity, coached by Matt Killian and Scott Huddy, with captain Alex McDowell, is 9-6-3. The freshman of coach Chris O’Dell and co-captains Jack Hennessy and Drew McNair finish with an unblemished 12-0-0 mark.
- On December 22, the Wreckers suffer the loss of yet another father, when Willem Oost-Lievense dies of complications from stomach cancer.
TRI-CAPTAINS: Brendon Cristobal, Keaton Cristobal, Matt Lamb
COACH: Dan Woog
2007: THE YOUNGEST TEAM EVER
- A record 66 seniors, juniors and sophomores show up in blazing haze at Wakeman Field (Loeffler Field is not yet match fit). Another 51 freshmen try for Chris O’Dell’s squad. Four frosh – Frankie Bergonzi, Greg Gudis, Sean Gallagher and Brendan Lesch – are selected for varsity. They join 6 sophomores – Jack Hennessy, Matteo Marzoli, Michael McCarthy, Drew McNair, Alan Reiter and Mike White – to form the youngest squad in Staples history. Another record: 4 keepers (McCarthy, and juniors Adam Liu, Sanders McNair and Ryan Segedi) make the 26-man roster. All will train with the varsity, though McCarthy and McNair will get game experience with the junior varsity (coached by Trevor Lamb, a tri-captain 4 years earlier).
- After just 4 days of double sessions, the Wreckers host Westhill at Wakeman B. It is the 1st time in 48 years that Staples plays a home match on artificial turf. The Vikings – longtime rivals, and a favorite for the FCIAC crown – do not play the Wreckers in the 15-game regular season, setting up the scrimmage match. After intense Westhill pressure, and 2 fine saves by Segedi, the hosts score 1st. The goal comes from freshman Gudis. After Staples beats the heavily favored Vikes 4-1, losing coach Mark Lukas lambastes his senior-laden side. Head coach Dan Woog and assistant Kurt Dasbach know that despite the score, much work remains.
- Staples continues its pre-season with a 3-1 loss to Wethersfield, a 1-0 loss to Guilford, and – without 3 potential starters – a 1-1-1 slate at the Wethersfield jamboree. On Labor Day they train at low tide on the Old Mill Beach tidal flats, followed by a fantastic picnic at the nearby home of Robin Tauck and Peter Romano.
- The opening day (and Rosh Hashana eve) match is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Westport. A large crowd waits 20 minutes in brilliant sunshine for the 2nd official to arrive. As soon as he does, the suspense is over. Just 15 seconds into the season senior Liam Bohonnon bangs a shot off the post. At the 1:00 mark junior Mateo Gaviria reinjures his ankle on a hard tackle. But Gudis gets the 1st goal – again – at the 7:59 mark. Two minutes later White knocks in tri-captain Russell Oost-Lievense’s rebound. Bohonnon nails the next 2; tri-captain Alex Gendell adds 1, and Dane Ostilly makes it 6-0 – all before halftime.
- In Danbury Lesch – celebrating his 15th birthday – helps unsnarl a halftime deadlock with a no-angle side volley that White heads home from 3 yards out. The Hatters strike back 3 minutes later, but in the 58th minute Gendell – starting his first match at outside midfield — scoops a shot over the keeper. Oost-Lievense supplies the insurance goal.
- Lesch casually heads in a bobble off Oost-Lievense’s clever free kick in the 23rd minute. That’s all the Wreckers need to subdue Fairfield Ludlowe, in their 1st big test of the season. Another large Loeffler Field crowd is confounded when the blue-and-whites uncharacteristically pass the ball backward several times off the opening kickoff against St. Joseph. The Cadets pin Staples in their own end, and punish them for their uninspired play in the 14th minute with an easy goal. A poor keeper outlet 6 minutes later makes it 2-0. The Westporters regroup at halftime. Immediately afterward White hits the post; 4 minutes later Ostilly’s tally is nullified by an offside call. With his team under pressure, St. Joseph coach Bob Studley yells to his squad: “Look at the scoreboard. You’re up 2-0. Play like it!” They do, in the waning minutes, and hand the Wreckers their 1st loss of the young season.
- On Yom Kippur Eve Staples plays its 1st game ever at Darien’s new turf field, just west of the renovated high school. With the temperature near 90 on a cloudless day, conditions mimic mid-summer. A lethargic 1st half is followed by a better 2nd 40. Gallagher appears to score twice, but 1 shot caroms off the far post; the other is blocked at the last moment. All 23 healthy players play, and in the 68th minute senior Jake Blauvelt tucks a nice pass to White, who turns the corner and hits paydirt. Segedi keeps the scoreline clear with a fine save, and with 5 minutes to go Oost-Lievense one-touches a 40-yard blast that ticks in off the inside of the left post. Bohonnon drills a shot in literally the final second – the ball crosses the line as the horn blows – putting an end to what 1 Wrecker calls “the strangest 3-0 game I’ve ever been in.”
- The Trumbull game – a rematch of last year’s FCIAC championship – lives up to its billing. The Golden Eagles arrive at Loeffler Field with most players – including the entire defense – back from 2006. At 5-0-0, they are unscored upon and ranked #1 in the Hartford Courant poll. The Wreckers’ new 5-4-1 alignment clicks, and though the visitors are physically bigger, Staples battles them toe to toe. Sophomore sweeper Jack Hennessy contributes an early clear off the line; in the 2nd half Lesch does the same. Segedi makes several good saves, and defenders Hennessy, Lesch, Bergonzi, tri-captain Mike Smith, senior Jackson Lesser and junior Frankie Rende do yeoman’s work. But with 6:41to go Trumbull snags a goal, a header off a curving free kick that may have been offside. Staples pushes forward with 3 strikers, but the Eagles hold fast to remain unbeaten and unscored upon.
- Lesch, Reiter and Oost-Lievense stake their side to a 3-0 win at Harding. Drew McNair (off Lesser’s throw-in) and Lesch score in a 2-0 victory over Fairfield Warde. Next is New Canaan. Despite a 10-3 advantage in shots the Wreckers draw 0-0. The score is the same 4 days later against Wilton. This time Staples leads in shots by a remarkable 28-2. But the Warriors escape with their 7th draw of the season – against only 1 win and 2 losses.
- The 6-2-2 Wreckers travel to Ridgefield’s Tiger Hollow ready to begin the final third of the regular season, against their toughest opponent so far. The battle for 1 of 6 FCIAC tournament spots is on; the hosts’ 6-0-3 record represents the 1st of 5 straight games against fellow playoff contenders. The 1st half is fairly even; so is the 1st part of the 2nd half. But in the 60th minute the Tigers score twice within 38 seconds, and the floodgates open. As the Westporters throw everyone into the attack, Ridgefield counters for 3 more goals. The 5-0 final score masks what had been an excellent effort – but throws the Wreckers into a tailspin.
- Three days later, on a perfect fall Saturday morning, more than a dozen alumni at Norwalk High’s Testa Field watch perhaps the best warmup of the season. But when the opening whistle blows, Staples defaults to late-Ridgefield mode. The Bears score at 13:21 on a header off a long free kick. Just 45 seconds before intermission they go up 2-0 on a penalty kick. Norwalk adds 3 more in the 2nd half, as a strangely tame Staples squad fails to muster more than token resistance. A few alums from last year’s squad ask to ride the bus home. Back in Westport they take the squad to Loeffler Field for a talk, and Brendon Cristobal, Keaton Cristobal, Preston Hirten, Matt Lamb, Dave Sharpe and Craig Wolgast organize a training session the next day.
- The twin losses and alumni training – along with a crackling training session on Monday – help. The Wreckers start strongly against Stamford, and never let up. In the 35th minute a short corner kick comes to Gaviria, finally rounding into form after his injury. He drills a ball into the box that Lesch extends himself for, heading into the back of the net. The goal breaks Staples’ record-setting 390-minute scoring drought. Liu, making his 1st start in goal, preserves the shutout. The Wreckers remain in the playoff hunt, with their destiny largely in their own hands.
- Greenwich provides a formidable obstacle, however, and defeating the 9-2-1 Cardinals on their own new turf is no easy task. The home side dominates in the air, and at midfield. Staples moves Gendell into central midfield after Greenwich’s 1st-half score. The move works, and the Wreckers come on strongly. A 2nd tally fails to deter Staples. They move the ball intelligently, work the corners, create chances – but do not score. The Wreckers’ FCIAC playoff hopes fade near extinction.
- When Stamford does the expected and beats Trinity Catholic, both Staples and Brien McMahon are officially out of FCIAC contention. For the final regular season match at the Senators’ Jack Casagrande Field, Woog starts 8 seniors and gives 1st-half action to other reserves. The lineup applies solid pressure, but as happens all year, the opposition gets a break (a shot caroms off the post directly to the foot of a striker), and the Wreckers do not. McMahon wins 2-0. Staples ends the regular season 7-6-2, and faces a 13-day layoff before the state tournament starts.
- Seeded 28th in the state “LL” (extra large schools) tournament, the Wreckers prepare with scrimmage wins at New Canaan and Fairfield Ludlowe before facing #5 Trumbull. The Golden Eagles, 13-0-2 in the regular season, have outscored opponents 44-6 this year. And Staples is missing central defender and tri-captain Smith, who must sit after being shown his 3rd yellow card of the season in the final regular game at McMahon.
- Trumbull has the run of play in the opening 10 minutes. But stellar defense from Hennessy, Bergonzi, Lesser, Lesch and Rende, plus good positioning by keeper Liu, helps the Wreckers weather the storm. Combining excellently and playing to feet, they look to head into halftime dead even — when suddenly their hosts strike. A quick low cross from the right finds Michael Matera – the lone sophomore starting among 10 seniors – who tucks it home.
- Oost-Lievense, roaming far and wide from his left midfield post, rouses the crowd with a 44th-minute, 45-yard shot that rockets off the post. But before the buzz subsides Trumbull counterattacks. Matera’s long, looping shot from the left somehow finds net. The Eagles have what may be an invincible 2-0 lead.
- Less than 6 minutes later, though, the Wreckers are back in the game. Oost-Lievense’s laser cross finds Gendell, the newly minted center midfielder. His shot rebounds out to Bohonnon near the endline on the right side. He finishes on his 2nd attempt.
- Staples, energized, goes on the attack. Reiter, White and Gaviria run hard up top. The action flows back and forth, with the Eagles absorbing Wrecker pressure and firing back. Slowly the seconds tick down. With less than a minute to go Staples sets up for a 60-yard free kick. Everyone, including Liu, races forward. Oost-Lievense’s long ball bounces several times, before being controlled by Trumbull. The season is over – but the Wreckers exit with their heads high. The youngest squad in the program’s history knows they will be back.
- The banquet, held for the 1st time ever at the Norwalk Inn, seesBlock “S” honors go to Oost-Lievense (MVP) and Gendell (Most Improved). Bohonnon earns the Alumni Award.
- Graduating seniors include Jake Blauvelt, Liam Bohonnon, Trevor Dodge, Alex Gendell, Jackson Lesser, Alex McDowell, Russell Oost-Lievense, Dane Ostilly and Mike Smith.
- Dasbach is named Assistant Coach of the Year for the Eastern United States.
- Trevor Lamb’s junior varsity, captained by Jairo Alvarado, Jonathan Choi and Nick Weir, finish the year at 7-3-3. Chris O’Dell’s freshman, led by Kosta Papadopoulos, end at 10-2-0.
- Paul Melitsanopoulos serves as Staples’ 1st-ever goalkeeper coach.
CO-CAPTAINS: Alex Gendell, Russell Oost-Lievense, Mike Smith
COACH: Dan Woog