Staples girls soccer coaxch Barry Beattie wants to take a certain blueprint and run with it to the final weekend of the season — then take that one final step.
For that blueprint, he need not look any further than a team in his own conference and Wednesday’s upcoming opponent. Ridgefield comes to Westport for a 3:30 p.m. FCIAC showdown.
“Me and (Ridgefield coach) Iain (Golding) spent the last couple days together for dinner,” Beattie said late last week. “It’s a big rivalry, but a friendly one between him and I.”
Staples has already started to follow the Ridgefield blueprint: success in the FCIAC, followed by success in the Class LL state tournament by reaching the final each the last two years. Both times, Ridgefield was there waiting and won the ultimate game.
It was Ridgefield that has been to the LL final the previous two seasons and lost to Glastonbury both times.
“There is definitely a culture in place and a mentality from this group seeing that continues,” Ridgefield coach Iain Golding said. “The year we lost 4-1 (to Glastonbury in the 2016 Class LL state final), we lost seven to nine seniors that following season. People expected a drop-off and that group went on to win the state championship. There is a good culture in place. The seniors take pride in what their roles and responsibilities to keep (the success in place).”
The interesting thing about life in the FCIAC is there are so many difficult regular-season games. In Staples’ case, all of the heavyweights are on the back end of its schedule: at Darien Friday, at St. Joseph on Oct. 21, home against New Canaan on Oct. 25 and at Wilton on Oct. 29.
“It’s been like this the last two years,” Beattie said. “We are constantly taking it game by game by game and we remind the players nothing is given. Nothing is guaranteed.”
Ridgefield already edged Darien and tied New Canaan over a four-day stretch. The Tigers host St. Joseph on Friday afternoon, travels to Fairfield Warde on Oct. 21 and is at Wilton on Oct. 23.
“Playing all these games back to back doesn’t give much recovery time,” Golding said. “Getting much rest is very tough.”
St. Joseph hadn’t allowed a goal over its first nine games before New Canaan scored in a 2-1 loss last Friday. The Cadets still have Trumbull, Ridgefield, Darien and Staples left on their regular-season schedule.
“The last five years we have had pretty much the same identical schedule,” St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira said. “I’m assuming they will all be tight, one-goal games. I’m assuming that we will win some and lose some. I will be curious to see how we do.”
New Canaan has already played Ridgefield and St. Joseph, but still have to face McMahon, Darien and Staples down the stretch.
“The advantage coming into the playoffs is you are (Battle-tested),” Beattie said. “The disadvantage is the top six , seven teams beat each other up (getting there).”
So what will it look like when the dust settles in a couple of weeks? No one knows for sure, but all of those FCIAC teams will be looking to achieve what Ridgefield did last year: winning an FCIAC and Class LL state tournament championship.