WESTPORT, Conn. Abbey Lake always knew her team was better than its record. The Staples High School girls soccer team struggled through several injuries and being what Lake called mentally unready throughout the regular season.
Whatever caused the Wreckers to post an 8-5-3 record in the regular season and just miss the conference playoffs is in the wash now. Staples has figured out how to win at just the right time.
On Saturday, Staples knocked off defending Class LL state champion Shelton 14-11 in penalty kicks. Then on Tuesday, the 20th seeded Wreckers erased a 1-0 deficit against Westhill to stun the five-seed, 2-1, to move on to the Class LL state semifinals . Staples is now just one win away from its first appearance in the state finals since 1995.
That was almost a three-hour game against Shelton. I think the penalty kicks roughed us up and got us ready for more competition, Lake said. I think in the time we had off from missing FCIACs, we turned a negative into a positive and worked hard.
After struggling in the first half, Staples was relentless in the second. The Wreckers aggressively ran circles around a clearly gassed Westhill team, creating multiple scoring chances.
Turner Block quickly scored the equalizer just four minutes into the second half. Block received a perfect pass from near midfield, faked out her lone defender and drilled a left-footer into the right side of the net past the dive of Westhills Allie Souza.
With time winding down, Staples continued to put tremendous pressure on the Vikings. Lake caught Westhills defense out of position, collecting a long ball and easily scoring the eventual game-winner in the 68th minute.
We play in such a tough conference and we lost a tiebreaker to get into FCIACs, Staples keeper Jessie Ambrose said. We definitely hit some bumps in the road in the regular season, but weve been improving so much and we knew coming into states we could do this.
Staples will try for its third straight upset of a top five team when it takes on top-seeded and undefeated Glastonbury (15-0-2) in the semifinals. The time and location of that game has yet to be determined. Staples' only girls soccer state title came in 1989.
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