NORWALK >> If someone told Ridgefield’s Julia Middlebrook prior to Wednesday’s FCIAC girls’ soccer final against unbeaten St. Joseph, that she would post a shutout in goal, she wouldn’t have believed it.
But at Testa Field late Wednesday afternoon, the Ridgefield girls pulled off the improbable, as the defense propelled the Tigers to a 2-0 upset win over St. Joes.
“They have some really talented forwards in No. 24 and Jenna Bike, obviously,” Middlebrook said. “And I think the reason why we were able to do it was our great defensive line and the communication. And truthfully, they weren’t a threat.”
Ridgefield (14-2-3), which won its first FCIAC title since 2009, relied on a solid 80 minutes of team defense to stop the normal high-scoring Cadets (18-1) offense. The Tigers held St. Joes scoreless for the first time all season.
“To keep them away from the goal, whether it be the first minute or the last, was exceptional by the girls,” Ridgefield head coach Alex Harrison said. “They did a fantastic job.”
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While the defense held St. Joes off the board, limiting quality chances, the offense made every opportunity count. In the 11th minute of play, Katherine Jasminski found herself free and sent one home for the 1-0 lead.
Harrison said striking first offensively was a big boost for the team against St. Joes, usually the ones doing the attacking first.
“Over the last few games we started so sharp,” Harrison said. “It’s an act to tell yourself to come out and start strong.”
With a 1-0 lead at the half, the final 40 minutes was more of the same, as the Tigers’ defense was relentless and did a nice job of limiting St. Joes from finding the final third of the soccer field.
Early in the second half, Ridgefield extended its lead as Grace Franklin headed in a corner for the 2-0 advantage.
Ridgefield was able to maintain it’s defensive shape and kept St. Joes scoreless for the remainder of the second half.
Both teams will now gear up for the state tournament, Ridgefield in LL and St. Joes in L.
“If we can win FCIACs, we can win anything, sky’s the limit,” Middlebrook said with a smile.