During the trip to Trumbull on Thursday, Ridgefield High girls lacrosse coach Cece Berger cautioned her players to expect a competitive game, before the Tigers earned a 9-5 victory over St. Joseph at the Dalling Sports Complex.
“I told the girls on the bus ride that St. Joe’s is a class team and [head coach] Lee (Gray) makes them better and better each year,” Berger said. “They made us earn it. I value that because it makes us stronger.”
Ridgefield met Gray’s expectations as well.
“They are as well coached and as athletic a team that we will face,” Gray said. “This is the closest we’ve played them. We’ve lost to Ludlowe, New Canaan, and now another top 10 team in Ridgefield. It was a great game.”
The Tigers took a 4-2 lead into the half, on goals from Faith Arnold, Hannah Boylan, Aly Gagnon, and Maeve Tobin.
Bu the Cadets (1-3 overall) got the first two goals of the of the second half to tie the game at 4-4.
Then, Ridgefield (2-2 overall) reeled off five straight goals, with Tobin scoring three in a row.
“I was a little crazy out there,” Tobin said. “We really want to win and we’re getting there by blending in the younger players. We have potential all over the field and we’re introducing attack and defense to the new starters.”
The Cadets’ Jetkke Gray controlled the first two draws in the second half, with Lily Ivanovich (24:36) and Annie McNeil (19:45) finding the back of the net.
Riley Peters leveled play in the circle and Ridgefield came back. Caitlin Slaminko (seven draw controls) helped trap a St. Joseph player looking to clear the zone and came away with the ground ball. Eighteen seconds later, Karley Smith fed the active Gagnon, who one-timed a shot past St. Joseph goalie Erin Owens.
“She made it difficult, that’s for sure,” Berger said about Owens, a Division I recruit headed to Central Michigan. “In the first half we took 16 shots, scored four goals, but she made 11 saves. That was outstanding.”
Jettke Gray looked to equalize with a free-position chance, but Ridgefield’s Bella Carrozza squeezed in quickly and keeper Lexi Held (eight saves) deflected the attempt high.
Tobin then drove in from the left of Owens and scored while being checked to the turf for a 6-4 Ridgefield lead at the 7:27 mark.
The Tigers won the ensuing draw, and off a quick attack Tobin was awarded a free-position opportunity and scored again.
Tobin’s third straight goal came off a great pass from Slaminko and put Ridgefield ahead 8-4 with 3:28 to play.
“We’ve been working on driving and then passing the ball (to the wing), Berger said. “We also were able to get in transition from the draw. That led to Caitlin’s two assists. Hannah Boylan also came up with huge possessions during the game.
Mary Hage made it 9-4 by scoring on Slaminko’s second assist of the game.
St. Joseph’s Ryan Camiglio completed the scoring from a tough angle, with the assist going to Ivanovich.
“In my four years of coaching here, this is the first time I’ve started four freshmen,” Lee Gray said. “We are one or two weeks away from being where we want to be. The defense is playing extremely well.
Ridgefield’s Faith Arnold received her team’s Pay It Forward Game Ball.
“Faith did a lot of good things,” Berger said of her sophomore. “She scored a goal, forced a turnover, had a couple of ground balls, and rushed the ball in transition.
“We give the ball to a player who most impresses the coaches that day. It isn’t who scores the most. It could be a bench player. It is for someone who shows heart and hustle. Someone who lifted us up. We want the players to take ownership (of their actions) and then pay it forward.”