DARIEN — Coming into Monday’s matchup with Darien, Ridgefield girls soccer coach Iain Golding stressed to his team the importance of being the first to 50/50 balls.
And, for 80 minutes on the road, Ridgefield was just that.
The Tigers rode their aggressive play to a 2-0 win over Darien, staying unbeaten on the season.
“It was very important,” Golding said. “If you’re winning the first ball it helps to feed off of that. In the last couple of games, we haven’t won that ball and it puts you under more pressure — so, that helped us offensively and defensively.”
Teams traded possessions with little consequence early on, but between the last three minutes of the first half and the first two of the second, three posts were hit.
While those shots eventually amounted to nothing more than a scare, it was Ridgefield’s Kathryn Barlow breaking the ice in the 44th minute on a penalty kick that she rolled into the bottom left corner.
“Those are obviously always very stressful,” Barlow said. “Especially in a 0-0 game in the second half. For me, I know that it’s an important goal so I’m just focused on putting it in the net and being calm about it.”
Once Barlow tallied, Ridgefield (7-0-2) appeared to get stronger, culminating with sophomore Megan Klosowski finishing off a perfect feed from freshman Faith Arnold in the 77th minute.
It was the only time a team has scored twice against the Blue Wave this season. Coming into the contest, Darien (7-2) and goalie Christine Fiore had only allowed one goal on the year.
While Blue Wave coach Leigh Parsons thinks his team is right on the brink of taking that next step up to being an elite team, Monday’s loss to the back-to-back defending FCIAC champion Tigers showed they still have room for improvement.
“They’re the benchmark and they’re a good team,” Parsons said. “You can’t take anything away from Ridgefield, they deserved to win today, 100 percent. It’s just frustrating when we showed in moments we could play with them, but it wasn’t enough.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Barlow, Ridgefield. The senior defenseman broke the ice with her penalty kick goal in the 44th minute and helped anchor a defense that shut out Darien.
The iron was busy Monday as Darien and Ridgefield combined to hit the crossbar and post five times in the contest. The biggest for the Blue Wave came in the first minute of the second half when Lauren Sulger drilled a shot off the left side of the crossbar.
“It’s that fine line in soccer,” Parsons said. “In the second half, we come out and hit that post. That goes in, the penalty probably doesn’t come and it’s a very different game.”
“Today, we were very well organized defensively, we didn’t really allow them to get behind us which helped the offense,” Golding said. “Plus, the tempo we set on attack was good and we set the tempo going forward in our season.”