By Eliot Schickler

The Fairfield Warde girls lacrosse team got off to a slow start at Staples Friday in its 15-9 loss.

Staples took a 5-0 lead with 16:02 remaining in the first half and raised its record to 9-2. Warde dropped to 1-8. The Mustangs fell behind by 12 goals, and although they made a late-game surge, it was too little, too late for them.

"We didn't play a good first half," Warde coach Tom Davis said. "In the second half, we got ground balls and draw controls. We controlled the ball and got scoring chances in the second half."

"We did a great job of establishing the tempo early, and we did well with draw controls, especially Jessie Ambrose," Lady Wreckers co-head coach Stacy Fierce said.

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Ambrose had a team-leading seven draw controls. Overall, Staples had 18 with Maeve Flaherty (three ground balls, one draw control) using her 5-10 frame and agility to win the faceoffs.

Ambrose (two goals, two assists) also scored the first two goals of the game and set up a goal by Adele Mackey (two ground balls) in the opening spurt.

"This time, we got off to a fast start and established the momentum," Ambrose said. "My teammates set me up nicely."

Megan O'Shea (two goals, one ground ball) and Ali Crofts (two goals, two ground balls, one caused turnover) also scored in the early-going.

The Mustangs cut it to 5-2 with Lindsay Adams (two goals, one draw control) netting both tallies, the second one with 9:44 remaining in the half.

Only 20 seconds later, Paige Murray (three goals, one ground ball, one draw control) answered for the Lady Wreckers and made it 6-2.

Murray's tally was the first of six straight goals for Staples in the first half, which led 11-2 at the break. Flaherty scored two straight goals, one off a feed from Remy Nolan (one goal, one assist). Ryan Kirshner (two assists, one ground ball, one draw control), Crofts and Nolan had the other tallies with Ambrose setting up Crofts' score off a centering pass.

"We were very pleased with the team's play for the first half and into the second," Lady Wreckers co-head coach Cathy Schager said. "Our offensive and defensive transition was solid and the offense did a nice job of spreading the scoring around and possessing the ball."

Mustangs goalie Jahzmin Howell (13 saves) prevented the Lady Wreckers from breaking it open. Howell robbed Murray twice and stymied Kirshner and Crofts on tough shots.

"I just focused on the ball and listened to what my coaches told me," Howell said. "You have to predict where they are going to go, stay on your toes and be ready for it."

Sami Bautista (three draw controls) extended Staples' lead to 10, 12-2 with 21:34 left in the game. Bautista's goal brought running time, which brought running time for more than 10 minutes.

Murray added two goals and O'Shea scored the team's last goal. Warde's Katie Tangney scored after Murray's second tally off a free-possession shot.

After the Lady Wreckers scored their final tally, the Mustangs battled back. Tangney (three goals, one caused turnover, one ground ball) used her speed to make things happen for Warde and scored two more goals to lead the charge.

"We picked it up in the second half, and it wasn't just me," Tangney said. "We encouraged each other. Mr. [Brian] Nerreau has told me where to pick my spots to shoot at, and coach Davis encouraging to keep shooting."

Warde's Jill Bernstein (three ground balls) had two goals during the comeback bid. Jennifer Jacob and freshman Meredith Nerreau (one caused turnover, one ground ball, one draw control) also scored for the Mustangs in their rally.

Tangney also helped the rally with five draw controls by being in the right place at the right time.

"I didn't feel I got that many, I just go where the ball is," Tangney said.

Warde hopes to carry its second-half momentum into Monday's game at Norwalk.

"It [the team's second-half play] gives us a big boost going into Monday's game," Davis said.