Staples girls lacrosse holds off Warde

WESTPORT -- A flurry late in the first half gave the Staples girls lacrosse team a comfortable six-goal lead over visiting Warde in the first round of the Class L tournament on Monday. The Wreckers would need most of those goals to claim an elusive postseason win.

Despite a Warde rally in the closing stages, Staples claimed an 11-8 win over the Mustangs. Paige Murray scored five times for the Wreckers, who will play the winner of third-seeded Darien against 19th-seeded South Windsor in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

The Wreckers -- who had dropped their previous five postseason games (FCIAC and state) -- scored four times in the last 2:12 of the first half to give themselves a cushion before the Mustangs responded with four straight in the second half to cut the lead to 9-6.

"We've always believed that Warde is a good team that is better than their record," Staples coach Pete Najarian said. "We expected them to come here and want to fight. But we need to do a better job of finishing games in the second half."

Wreckers goalie Emma Boland made a crucial save with the three-goal lead and moments later teammate Colleen Bannon weaved her way around the Mustangs' defense and finished to make it 10-6 with 11:46 left.

"Emma is a fourth-year starter, and she's a goalie that first picked up a lacrosse stick freshman year of high school," Najarian said. "Now she's been at it four years and this is absolutely her best year."

Warde didn't give in and again attempted to rally, pulling to within 11-8 with 4:09 left on a goal by Amanda Orvis. Jenna McNicholas, who scored three times for Staples, won the ensuing draw and the Wreckers ran most of the clock out.

"It was definitely exciting, the draw is something I've always worked on," McNicholas said. "It's not just me, it's my teammates coming in and getting the ground balls. I rely on them and try to get the ball to them."

Staples (12-5) stormed to an early 3-1 lead, but Warde (9-6-1) responded with long periods of possession and consistently tested Boland. The Mustangs fired shots over and at the cage, but didn't score a second goal until 8:48 left in the half, and were shut out for the remainder of the period as Staples went on its scoring binge to break the game open.

"We were getting the shots, we just weren't putting them in," Warde coach Tom Davis said. "We threw a couple balls away. We knew we couldn't make any mistakes, we had to play a perfect game. We didn't do that in the first half."

Courtney Scheetz and Meredith Nerreau each fired hat tricks for Warde. The teams had split the last two meetings with Warde winning on Staples' field in 2014 and the Wreckers returned the favor in a 13-3 rout last month. The Mustangs reached the Class L semifinals a year ago.

"After coming off of making the semifinals last year, we were fired up," Davis said. "I'm pleased with the season, but I wish we could have gone farther in states."

The Wreckers face a tall task in the quarterfinals against FCIAC champion Darien.

"My message to the kids was that you've got to allow yourselves to believe you can beat Darien," Najarian said. "If you don't, you won't. It starts there; we believe we can play with anyone if we play our best lacrosse, but it starts with believing it can happen.",


WARDE 2 6--8

STAPLES 8 3--11

Records: Warde 9-6-1; Staples 12-5.

Scoring: FW--Amanda Orvis (2g); Meredith Nerreau (3g ); Courtney Scheetz (3g); S--Paige Murray (5g 1a); Colleen Bannon (2g, 1a); Jenna McNicholas (3g); Meghan Johnson (1g). Goalies: FW--Rebekah Snitkoff (5 saves); S--Emma Boland (7 saves).