RIDGEFIELD — As far as regular-season soccer games are concerned, they don’t get much bigger than Tuesday afternoon’s battle between unbeaten Staples and unbeaten Ridgefield.
And as far as scoreless ties go, they don’t get any more entertaining than said clash, which was a rematch of last year’s Class LL state championship match.
Both teams’ senior goalkeepers were flat-out sensational, with Zoe Barnett making seven saves for Staples (9-0-3) and Lauren Castle making five saves for Ridgefield (10-0-1), which has not surrendered a goal this season.
“Every game, for every season that I’ve been here, the goal is to keep the zero,” Castle said, “because if you don’t get scored on, you can’t lose.”
Castle made one spectacular save in particular to preserve the shutout, sprawling to stop a header by Staples’ Marlo Von der Ahe from right in front of the goal. The Wreckers’ shot off the rebound sailed over top of the goal, and the Tigers’ scoreless streak lived on.
“Their goalkeeper made one of the best saves you’ll see in the whole FCIAC this season,” Staples coach Barry Beattie said. “Unbelievable save.”
Not to be outdone, Barnett made a huge save of her own with less than six minutes remaining when she came out and denied Ridgefield sniper Faith Arnold’s quick, low shot on a breakaway.
“We’ve been waiting for this for so long, and if this tie says anything, it says that we’re not giving up until the end,” Barnett said. “We’re going all the way.”
There were some anxious moments on both sides as the final minutes ticked away. In fact, Staples was lining up for a free kick from the Ridgefield side of midfield when time expired.
In the final two minutes, Ridgefield took two corner kicks and a free kick from the Staples side of midfield. The Wreckers’ defense handled them all.
“I would trust my team with my life,” Barnett said. “Honestly, I believe in the defenders, the midfielders and the forwards. I believe that any shot that gets in there, we can get out. I’ve waited to be the varsity goalie for so long, and I’m not messing it up.”
Ridgefield’s defense was air-tight as well. The Tigers have outscored their 11 opponents this season 36-0.
“Was it the prettiest game? Probably not,” Ridgefield coach Iain Golding said. “But it was a great battle.”
Coincidentally, Staples was the last team to score a goal on Ridgefield, although that was in last year’s state final, which Ridgefield won 2-1.
Beattie summed up his team’s chances in the rough-and-tumble FCIAC like this:
“We’re going to be fighting with (Ridgefield) right to the end of FCIACs and states,” he said. “St. Joe’s will be right in the mix, and a couple other teams, like New Canaan, are getting good results this year. Darien is fighting hard, and Wilton has gotten a few good results. It’s going to be tough this year. I think a lot of the teams are closer.”
In other words, get ready for a heck of a show come playoff time.
STAPLES 0, RIDGEFIELD 0
Shots: Staples 13, Ridgefield 11. Saves: Staples: Zoe Barnett 7; Ridgefield: Lauren Castle 5.