Wilton came to Loeffler Field believing in themselves. The Warriors had a great run in the L tournament last year, falling to Wethersfield in a bizarre overtime match. Most starters return, and Wilton scored in the waning seconds against Greenwich for a strong opening-day draw.
The Wreckers — hit with several injuries — tweaked their lineup once again for the Alumni Day battle.
The visitors tested keeper James Hickok early, and for the 1st 10 minutes play flowed back and forth.
In the 11th minute Staples earned 2 consecutive corner kicks. Andrew Travers banged a shot off the 2nd one. The ball bounced around several times, eventually off to the right. Sophomore Jordan McNair was there, heading in smartly from 5 yards out.
Hickok moved his backs — Andrew Puchala, Yousef Shahin and Sam Koenig — up far. Wilton threatened in the 29th minute, off a free kick, but Hickok saved twice — the 2nd time off the crossbar.
In the 38th minute Hickok was shown a yellow card for profanity. Ryan Petersen came on, and immediately faced an indirect kick inside the box. Staples’ defensive wall held, and within a minute it was the Wreckers with a free kick at the other end.
The Warriors’ wall gave Birch a great target on goal. He bent the ball 25 yards, into the corner. Less than 2 minutes before halftime, the hosts had a 2-0 lead.
Petersen — still in goal — faced his toughest test in the 46th minute. But he punched solidly over the top, out of danger.
Wilton halved the deficit in the 52nd minute. Hickok made a fine stop, but the Warriors won the rebound and finished from close range.
Andrew Puchala shot just wide, and Wilton countered. The Wrecker defense — including Birch, Greg Shikowitz and Ethan Bradeen — hung tough.
Staples almost went up 3-1, when Travers cruised in on goal.
The game changed 7 minutes later. An attempted back header under moderate pressure surprised Hickok, and skipped past him. He raced back, but a gust of wind blew the ball, slow-motion-style, past him. He attempted to save off the line, but the officials signaled goal.
The own goal sparked the Warriors. They pressured Staples, and Hickok punch-saved magnificently in a crowd.
Puchala fired a good shot in the 76th minute, but soon the visitors made Staples pay for not stepping up defensively. They squibbed in the game-winner with 2:11 to play.
“That’s one of the craziest games I’ve ever been in,” said head coach Dan Woog. “There was a lot going on — it was wild out there.
“Wilton never folded — that’s a great comeback for them.
“We did plenty of good things, and we take a lot of positives away from this match — particularly as banged-up as we are.” (Several players on both sides left the match for medical attention.)
“But we also have to take away the importance of communication, of stepping together, and of making sure that we finish more of the chances we’re creating. We talk often about being ruthless — and the need to be ruthless for the entire 80 minutes.” Final score: Wilton 3, Staples 2. Season record: 2-2-0.
QUICK KICKS: Staples outshot Wilton 13-10. Each team had 8 corner kicks….
The junior varsity dropped their 1st match of the year yesterday, 3-1 in Wilton. Sterling Price got the lone goal.