RIDGEFIELD — As a freshman two years ago, Ridgefield’s Faith Arnold scored a memorable goal against Wilton, getting the ball on the left side and using a couple of slick moves to create space before curling a shot into the top right corner.
From nearly the same spot on the field, Arnold displayed a similar sleight of feet in Monday evening’s game with New Canaan. Arnold sharply cut the ball twice to transfixe a defender and then powered a low blast that flew under Rams goalie Emma Gibbens, knotting the score with 10:10 left in the second half.
Neither team was able to break the tie in the final minutes, as the two unbeatens remained that way by playing to a 2-2 tie in the rain at Tiger Hollow.
“I got some space so I thought I might as well shoot because it was wet and you never know what will happen,” Arnold said. “I was aiming to the back right corner but it kind of went middle and worked out.”
Both sides entered the contest sporting 8-0 records, with Ridgefield ranked first and New Canaan fourth in the latest state coaches’ poll.
“It was certainly a competitive game … that’s what we expected,” New Canaan coach Rich Hickson said. “We know Ridgefield’s a very good team, very well coached, very organized, dangerous on the attack.”
New Canaan was actually the more dangerous team at the start, taking a 1-0 lead on Emma Schuh’s goal less than six minutes into the game. Schuh got the ball in the box, fended off a challenge, and sent a shot past Ridgefield keeper Kelly Chittenden and into the lower right corner.
“The first goal is always important … it takes a little bit of pressure off,” Hickson said. “It kind of makes you a little more comfortable.”
The Rams kept pressing and nearly added another score off a corner kick, with Arnold having to head the ball off the goal line.
“For me I was just very disappointed with the tone and the intensity we came out with,” Ridgefield coach Iain Golding said. “I felt that we gave New Canaan far too much space, far too much time on the ball, and we weren’t quite playing our game, we were letting them play theirs.”
Ridgefield did find composure after the shaky start and controlled the final 15 minutes of the half. But New Canaan’s backline was up to the pressure, as Katherine Lisecky blocked Julia Bragg’s shot and McKenna Harden did well to force a corner before Bragg could get off another shot.
The Tigers maintained their pressure and scored the equalizer five minutes into the second half. Arnold got free on the left side and sent a pass that Megan Klosowski was able to convert for a 1-1 tie.
Against the run of play, New Canaan went ahead again. Dillyn Patten took advantage of some miscommunication in the center of the Ridgefield defense to put the Rams ahead 2-1 with 19 minutes left.
The goal came 11 minutes after Carolyn Donovan, Ridgefield’s standout central defender, was hit in the face with the ball and left the game. Donovan did not return.
“Obviously it’s confusion in the middle, which if you’re missing a center back who’s a senior captain and leader it’s a loss,” Golding said about New Canaan’s go-ahead goal. “At the same time the players coming in are perfectly capable to step up. I don’t know what the error was — we’ll talk about it more at practice — but it’s a little bit disappointing.”
Golding’s disappointment was tempered nine minutes later when Arnold came through with the equalizer.
“It’s not very often we’ve been behind, especially here at home,” Golding added. “So it’s a great test of character for the girls to go behind and show that we can compete with good teams and come back from a goal down.”
“You take the lead, you want to keep it,” said Hickson, when asked if he was disappointed with the tie. “But they pressured well and created chances and it was a good strike, so you’ve got to hold your hands up there and say great strike, great bit of individual kind of play. Frustrating yes, but these things happen in soccer.”