WESTPORT — There was little in the way of panic by the Staples girls lacrosse team late in the first half of today’s FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal game. The Wreckers fell behind Fairfield Ludlowe, 6-3. The Falcons were controlling the time of possession and getting great play from goaltender Georgia Hoey and a tenacious defense focused on taking away Wreckers star Kyle Kirby.
“I think at halftime they realized it was win or go home,” Staples coach Nicole Gerosa said. “It definitely was a mental shift. We had to come out stronger. Our first half was very flat and Ludlowe definitely wanted it more.”
The Wreckers, who scored just before the break, after it got two quick goals from Shira Parower. Kirby soon made it four straight goals, and she would add two more in what ended as an 11-9 victory.
“I think we came out a little flat in the first half,” Parower said. “I think we were a little bit cocky coming off the win last week, but I think in the second half we just wanted it more than them. We really shared the ball and came out with a lot of fire and heat and ran up the score.”
The teams met six days earlier, with the Wreckers needing a goal with 22 seconds left to come away with an 11-10 win. Round two was equally difficult.
“The girls said we are not playing well, this is not our team and they literally picked each other up and got enthusiastic,” Gerosa said. “Everything was very positive. We knew we had to come out strong to beat a very good team.”
The Wreckers (15-2), who are unbeaten in conference play but have yet to face Darien or New Canaan, the two teams seeded ahead of them in the tournament, will play the Rams in Monday’s semifinals.
Kirby was able to create space to set up and finish plays after the break, ending up with four goals and three assists.
“Kyle works 120 percent or harder every single time she’s on the field,” Gerosa said. “She’s constantly looking to get herself open, her teammates open and she’s working hard to get the ball.”
Added Parower, “Our team feeds off her energy too. When she goes she gets the team going and we want to keep scoring as much as we can every game.”
Parower finished with three goals and an assist, while Elle Fair and Kathleen Cozzi scored twice each.
“They definitely changed the momentum of the game,” Gerosa said of Parower’s goals to open the second half. “It was back and forth and there were some major plays at the end of the game where we held the ball and were really patient on offense.”
Staples had a 10-8 lead with 3:47 left when Ludlowe was assessed a two-minute penalty for a dangerous check to the head. The Wreckers nimbly played keep away, then at even strength Parower scored with 1:08 left.
“That’s what we’ve been focusing on so much this season during practice,” Parower said. “Just our man-up offense. We used to throw it away or waste our possessions so we really wanted to score on that and make use of it.”
Ludlowe’s Caroline Sullivan narrowed the deficit to 11-9 with 32 seconds left, and the Falcons won the ensuing draw, but a good read led to a steal by the Wreckers’ Emma Ashe, who scored the game-winner last week.
Bridget O’Brien finished with three goals and an assist for the sixth-seeded Falcons (12-5). Callie Cirilli and Chloe Madzio each added two goals and an assist, while Sullivan finished with one goal and three assists.
“I really feel like it could have gone either way yet again today,” Ludlowe coach Kimberly Sheehan said. “We just need to take this as a learning experience. These are the kind of games that we need to maintain our composure during those frantic moments when things can do either way.”
The Falcons controlled time of possession in the first half, and received strong play on defense from Paloma Meehan and Ashley Moynahan.
“I feel like it was a defensive game all throughout and we had our ups and downs and just needed to maintain composure a little better,” Sheehan said. “We got excited when things went really well for us on defense and then we made some turnovers on transition and on attack.”
Now the Wreckers will get the chance to measure themselves against a conference power.
“We’re excited to play New Canaan,” Gerosa said. “It’s a huge chance for us to show everyone really what we’ve been doing all season. It’s a great opportunity for us.”