In 2008, the Staples High girls lacrosse team in Westport, Conn., won just two games. Then Maeve Flaherty joined the team. In three seasons with Flaherty, Staples has increased its win totals to eight, 11 and 15. This spring the team was ranked No. 1 in the state.
Many players have been responsible for this improvement, but Flaherty, a rising senior, has had the greatest impact. This past season, Flaherty, a midfielder, was the team’s leading scorer with 51 goals and led Staples to its first ever victory in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Conference (FCIAC) playoffs.
"Maeve is one of those people that I know I can count on off the field to support me and on the field to deliver when we need it the most," said senior defensemen Ella Hirten.
Flaherty also made her college commitment, choosing Brown over Columbia and Cornell. “Throughout the entire recruiting process I always loved Brown because of the people, the campus, the philosophy, and its access to the city," she said. "I also connected really well with the coaches.”
Flaherty seemed destined for college lacrosse even during her freshman season, which at the time turned out to be the school's best since 2000. Staples qualified for the state playoffs, and Flaherty scored four goals to help the Wreckers upset fourth-seeded Waterbury High.
In Flaherty's sophomore year, Staples, as a 10th seed, made it all the way to the Division II state championship game before losing to rival Fairfield Ludlowe. It was the school's first appearance in the state finals. Staples led by four goals at the half but fell apart and were outscored 10-4 in the final 25 minutes of the game.
"It was very exciting to play in the state championship game," Flaherty said. "I think the fact that our team was so young at the time hurt us in the end and we were not yet prepared to win a state championship."
Staples looked like a good bet to do that this year as the team was the top seed in the tournament. But just hours before a playoff game, the CIAC (the governing body of Connecticut high school sports) ruled Flaherty and several other players across the state ineligible for a rules violation. Flaherty and the others had tried out for an under-19 regional team, which was against a CIAC rule of participating in a non-state event during the season. Without Flaherty, Staples lost to Darien High 19-5 and was also forced to forfeit two previous victories.
“The whole experience was miserable and really hard on me," Flaherty said. " ... that will always blemish our nearly perfect season for something insignificant."
The disappointing end to the 2011 season only adds to her motivation of helping Staples, which will return half of its starters, bring home the program’s first state title in 2012.
"It is going to take a lot of work, but it is the main goal," Flaherty said. "We need to be playing off-season ball as much as we can. But most importantly it is going to take heart and hunger for a championship, the dedication to win. I believe that our senior class is ready for the challenge."