RIDGEFIELD — The Ridgefield High School girls soccer team has prided itself all season long on its stellar defensive play — and rightfully so, as the Tigers allowed only three goals in the regular season and posted 14 shutouts in 16 matches.
On Thursday night in the FCIAC quarterfinals against Trumbull, Ridgefield showed off its offensive firepower as well its defensive prowess.
Caitlin Slaminko tallied two goals and an assist, freshman phenom Julia Bragg added a goal and two assists and Tasha Riek scored a goal as the third-seeded Tigers defeated sixth-seeded Trumbull 4-0. Lauren Castle made four saves to preserve the shutout.
“We’re definitely happy with the win,” Slaminko said. “We played pretty well, and we finished our chances. We’re moving on now, and we have to focus on getting better and being prepared for what’s ahead.”
Ridgefield is set to face second-seeded St. Joseph — a 2-0 winner over seventh-seeded Brien McMahon Thursday — in the semifinals Monday at either 5 or 7 p.m. at Wilton High School. Monday’s game will be a clash of the last two FCIAC champions, with St. Joseph having beaten Staples in last year’s final and Ridgefield having beaten St. Joseph in both the 2015 and 2016 title matches.
St. Joseph scored two of the aforementioned three goals against Ridgefield in dealing the Tigers a 2-1 loss on Oct. 15.
“St. Joe’s is a great team and they have a great coach, so it’s going to be an exciting game,” Ridgefield coach Iain Golding said. “It could probably go either way, so it’s going to be which team wants it most.”
The final score was in no way indicative of how close a game this was, or how well Trumbull played.
“To be honest, I thought Trumbull was the better team in the first half, and I thought they kept the ball a little bit better than us, although we were winning 2-0, which was awesome,” Golding said. “In the second half, we figured things out a little bit better and took a little more control of the game.”
That being said, however, Ridgefield still led 2-0 at halftime, as Bragg scored off a Slaminko assist in the 11th minute and Slaminko scored off an assist from Faith Arnold in the 26th minute.
It was still anybody’s ball game at that point, with the next goal obviously being pivotal. Had Trumbull broken through, either late in the first half or early in the second, and narrowed its deficit to one, it would have changed the entire complexion of the game.
That didn’t happen, however, and Slaminko scored off an assist from Bragg less than six minutes into the second half to pad the Tigers’ lead. A 3-0 deficit against a team that had only allowed three goals all season was too much for Trumbull to overcome. Riek added an insurance goal in the 58th minute off a pass from Bragg.
“We just can’t make the mistakes we made against a team as good as Ridgefield because they just punish you,” Trumbull coach Rich Sutherland said.
Avery Rice and Maryna Barone split the game in goal for Trumbull and combined to make four saves.
TIME TO REGROUP
Trumbull will have a few extra days to prepare for the Class LL state tournament, which is set to begin Nov. 3 with the play-downs. With an 11-5-0 regular-season record, the Eagles are in good shape to have a home game in the first round. Of course, the Class LL tournament is loaded with FCIAC powers, including Ridgefield, which went 13-2-1 in the regular season.
“We’re a good enough team to compete with the best, but we just can’t make the errors that we made,” Sutherland said. “We’ve come a long, long way from where we were at the start of the season. We’ve progressed exponentially and the girls have been great. It’s just tough coming out and losing like that.”
RIDGEFIELD 4, TRUMBULL 0
TRUMBULL (11-6-0)0 0 — 0
RIDGEFIELD (14-2-1)2 2 — 4
Scoring: 1. R, Julia Bragg (Caitlin Slaminko) 11:00; 2. R, Slaminko (Faith Arnold) 26:00; 3. R, Slaminko (Bragg) 46:00; 4. R, Tasha Riek (Bragg) 58:00. Shots: Trumbull 7; Ridgefield 11. Saves: T—Avery Rice 3, Maryna Barone 1; R—Lauren Castle 4.