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Published on November 9th, 2021 | by Staples Soccer


State Tournament Match Report: Staples vs. Manchester

Staples has a long history in the state tournament. The Wreckers have missed qualifying only once in the 61 years they’ve competed in the prestigious event.

They also have a long history with Manchester. They’ve faced the Red Hawks (formerly known as the Indians) 11 times. They lost to what was then an upstate powerhouse the first 2 times, in 1962 and ’65. Since then Staples is 8-1. The 2 most recent encounters were in 2011 and ’06 — both 1-0 wins.

But all that was ancient history to the 2021 squad. They knew little about the Hartford-area team. They did know that they themselves still smarted from a 1-0 loss to Fairfield Warde in the FCIAC quarterfinals — a long 11 days earlier.

Conditions were gorgeous — bright sunshine, with temperatures in the mid-60s — at the same Wakeman Field. The Westporters are playing home post-season matches on the artificial turf at Bedford Middle School. The grass at Staples’ Loeffler Field is showing wear, after a long season.

The Wreckers showed few effects of their long layoff (punctuated by a first-ever scrimmage last Friday at Greens Farms Academy). They controlled the tempo of the match from the start. Jaden Mueller, Dylan Hoke, Caleb Tobias and Tim Liakh provided balance and depth in the middle of the field. They linked well with defenders Jackson Hochhauser, Bruno Guiduli, Jack Foster and Hunter Smith, while Murilo Moreno and Reese Watkins pushed forward.

Staples usually plays well on the Wakeman turf. They utilize its width, and today their confidence there was clear.

In the 9th minute Liakh won a ball, and sent Watkins goalward with a well-timed, nicely weighted pass. The striker was taken down in the box. He stepped up to take the penalty kick, and drilled it home.

Six minutes later, Watkins nearly connected again. His header, off a Mueller corner kick, sailed just wide.

Marius Ekeberg missed by inches in the 28th minute. Matthew Jordan delivered a superb corner kick minutes later.

Will Adams earned a corner kick in the 38th minute. A crazy sequence of shots in the box was blocked repeatedly. But just a minute before halftime, Ryan Thomas power-headed Jordan’s corner kick for an important, message-sending 2-0 lead.

Sophomore Adam Syah came on to start the 2nd half, making his varsity debut as a defender. He quickly went forward, and earned a corner kick. Once again, Jordan delivered a devilish cross. This time it was Hochhauser – the central defender, in the box, with another power header.

That 44th-minute strike sealed the victory. The blue-and-whites’ individual and team speed kept the Red Hawks on the defensive, even as they chased the game.

The 4th goal, in the 60th minute, was as gorgeous as the weather. Adams and Moreno worked together to set up Thomas. His blast off the far post sealed the victory.

All 27 healthy field players — plus sophomore keeper Nick Sikorski — saw action. Aidan Mermagen, Matt Shackelford, Alex Laskin, Sam Vannart and their teammates all kept the standard high.

It was a satisfying victory. But it was only the first step on what Staples hopes is a much longer journey.

“The game is already in the rear view mirror,” says head coach Dan Woog. “We’re already preparing for the next match.”

It comes quickly: Thursday, 2 p.m. at Wakeman Field. The Wreckers face Conard. The #22 West Hartford side upset #11 West Haven, 1-0. FINAL SCORE: Staples 4, Manchester 0. SEASON RECORD: 11-2-4.

QUICK KICKS: Freshmen Zac Belzer and Zach Gorin — along with Syah, the postseason call-ups — made their varsity debuts….

In LL matches involving FCIAC teams, #5 Norwalk ousted #28 Trumbull 3-1; #8 Darien walloped #25 New Britain 6-0; #20 Brien McMahon lost 1-0 at #13 Cheshire; #9 Ridgefield topped #24 South Windsor 3-1, #10 Fairfield Warde shut out #23 Westhill 4-0 and #19 upended #14 Newtown 2-1. Darien and Ridgefield face each other in the next round. Click here for the full draw. In class L, #25 Wilton fell 3-1 at #8 Bristol Central.

Ryan Thomas leaps high to head in Staples’ 2nd goal against Manchester … (Photo/Mark Sikorski)


… and then celebrates. (Photo/Mark Sikorski)


jackson Hochhauser (far right) watches his header sail over the Manchester keeper’s hand. (Photo/Mark Sikorski)


Hunter Smith shields. (Photo/Mark Sikorski)



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