Last Friday, the Wreckers were physically and mentally exhausted. The previous day’s penalty kick win over Newtown took a lot out of them.
They used Saturday to rejuvenate. A Sunday training session got them back in the groove. This afternoon — a warm, sunny, perfect-state-tournament fall day — they were ready to begin anew.
Amity and Staples shared the same regular season record. The Spartans were ranked #4 on a coin flip, so the #5 Westporters took a scenic ride north of New Haven.
Amity’s field is large — longer and wider even than Loeffler Field. It was muddy from recent rains, and sloped downward in both penalty areas. But the Wreckers like big spaces, and from the opening whistle they used it well.
Just 3 minutes into the match, Greg Gudis took a short corner. Mike White launched a cross into into the area. It bounced around — and in, for a stunning early lead.
The Wreckers pressed the attack. In the 9th minute White laced another ball; it was saved superbly by Stephen Sasso.
Gudis, White, and midfielders Brendan Lesch, Alan Reiter, Drew McNair and Mikey Scott were combining nicely. Staples stepped up well, so much of the game was played in the offensive half.
In the 24th minute a corner kick created an excellent chance. Amity knocked it away for another corner. White took this one; there was a scrum in the box, and Mikey Fitzgerald finished.
Two minutes later Sasso outdid his earlier save, coming up big when a rocket by Reiter took a wicked bounce.
The blue-and-whites kept pounding. Sasso saved again, this time off another Staples corner.
But the big story was the Wrecker defense. Keeper Michael McCarthy was tested seldom, thanks to the teamwork of Fitzgerald, Jack Hennessy, Frankie Bergonzi and Sean Gallagher. They tracked back when necessary, moved up together, and almost never let anyone through. The midfielders and forwards also defended strongly.
The halftime talk centered on the need to drive the nail into Amity’s coffin — exactly what Staples did not do against Newtown. But no reminder was necessary. The Westporters took that lesson to heart. There not only was no letup in the 2nd half — the Wreckers got even stronger.
Gudis added a 3rd tally 12 minutes after intermission, with a goal that typified both defense and offense. He won a loose ball near midfield, then tore 60 yard upfield on a classic breakaway. He outran his defender; kept both the ball and his cool; drew Sasso out, then deposited the ball in the back of the net.
Jake Krosse did a fine job at midfield, spelling both Scott and McNair. Matteo Marzoli performed excellently at midfield and up top. Dylan Evans and Court Lake came off the bench to help nail down the shutout. And Alex Tonsberg — like Evans, a sophomore — nearly scored in the final minute.
Head coach Dan Woog said, “Newtown was a near-death experience, in soccer terms. We talked a lot about what having a new lease on life does — it makes you appreciate all the good things you have. Our guys definitely appreciated everything about today’s match — the chance to play, to have a great time with their friends, to make the most of their opportunities. What a great tribute to them.”
The victory advances Staples into the state “LL” semifinals, for the 4th time in 6 years. The Wreckers face #1 Glastonbury on Wednesday, at a site and time to be determined. The unbeaten Tomahawks shut out Southington 3-0 this afternoon.
It should be a great rematch. Last year in the semifinals, Glastonbury scored 2 goals in the final 8 minutes, winning 2-1 and knocking the Wreckers out of the state tournament. Final score: Staples 3, Amity 0. Season record: 20-2.
QUICK KICKS: The Wreckers outshot the Spartans 19-5, and led in corner kicks 5-2….
Amity played the final minutes 2 men down, after receiving a pair of red cards.