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Staples Seniors Find Supporting Cast

The veterans of Staples' boys soccer team have stepped up to lead the Wreckers to the semifinals of the Class LL tournament. The fifth-seeded Wreckers (18-2-1) meet No. 17 Hall at 7 p.m. today in West Haven as they shoot to become the first team since Naugatuck in 2001 and 2002 to win consecutive state titles.

The 12 seniors on the Staples' team have played a large part in helping the Wreckers get to the semis again. In the last three years, those players have helped Staples compile an 11-1 record in the state tournament and three straight appearances in the semifinals. Staples, which has won 12 state titles, has won eight straight state tournament games heading into today's contest.

Though the seniors have been an important part, underclassmen have also played huge roles for Staples. That was especially evident in Monday's 1-0 quarterfinal win over Simsbury . With leading scorer Greg Gudis sidelined for the rest of the tournament with a slight tibia fracture, coach Dan Woog turned to several younger players to step up their game.

Juniors Max Hoberman, Lars Aanestad, Steve Smith and Ben Root and sophomore Lorenz Esposito played significant minutes in the victory. Goalie James Hickok, a sophomore, has been splendid in goal all year. Staples suffered several injuries during the season, and each time, the players off the bench have responded.

"It means we're a team,'' Woog said. "We're not a one- or two-person team. We know what we've got, and we like what we have."

Their work isn't done. The seniors would like to become the first Staples group since the 1981 and 1982 squads to win back-to-back state titles (the '81 team were co-champions). If they are to get there, however, they need support from their younger teammates. So far, they have proven themselves capable of providing it.

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