Ridgefield, Staples play to rainy day tie

Ridgefield's Alex Kinkead (#21) battles a Staples player for the ball in Wednesday's 0-0 tie in Westport.

Ridgefield's Alex Kinkead (#21) battles a Staples player for the ball in Wednesday's 0-0 tie in Westport.

Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media

If the past two weeks are an accurate indication, the space between the FCIAC’s top girls soccer teams isthisclose.

The latest evidence came Friday afternoon as Ridgefield and St. Joseph played to a 1-1 tie that kept both teams undefeated heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

For Ridgefield, the reigning FCIAC and Class LL state champion, it was the third tie in less than two weeks against an opponent that was also unbeaten at the time: The Tigers tied New Canaan, 2-2, on Oct. 7 and Staples, 0-0, last Wednesday.

As it did against New Canaan, Ridgefield had to rally. Several minutes after hitting the crossbar with an inswinging corner kick, St. Joseph’s Caroline Sheehan curled her second corner into the back of the Ridgefield net, giving the Cadets a 1-0 lead with 29:21 left in the opening half.

St. Joseph (10-0-2) continued to threaten, with Hannah Hodges blasting a shot over the crossbar and Annie Stook forcing a save from Ridgefield goalie Kelly Chittenden on a header off another corner kick.

But against the run of play, the Tigers got the equalizer. Grace Michalowski lofted a long direct kick that Caitlin Slaminko was able to back-head past goalie Grace Hickey, tying the game at 1-1 with 6:40 remaining before the break.

“I think she (Hickey) came out and I just headed it backwards and she wasn’t in the goal,” Slaminko said. “It worked out perfectly.”

St. Joseph applied early pressure in the second half, with Chittenden doing well to punch out Maddie Fried’s direct kick and then stopping Andriana Cabral’s shot from close range.

Ridgefield was the more dangerous team after that but couldn’t get the go-ahead goal. In the final minutes, Maya Rubio and Julia Bragg both drove shots that narrowly cleared the crossbar.

“I thought it was one of our not-too-good games,” St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira said. “Maybe it was a combination of Ridgefield being a very good team and us not having the same intensity that we did against Trumbull (a 2-1 road victory last Monday). But a tie here, getting a point at their place is not always a bad thing.”

“It was a strange game, to be honest,” Ridgefield coach Ian Golding said. “I thought in the first half they were the slightly better team, even though they didn’t create many clear-cut chances. I thought in the second half we were the better team and created a couple of good chances at the end, so I’m a little bit disappointed not to have won. In the end, though, a tie is probably a fair result.”

Notes: Ridgefield and Staples remained unbeaten by playing to a scoreless tie in the rain last Wednesday afternoon in Westport.

Faced with driving rain the first half and threatening dark clouds and lighter rain in the second half, the officials allowed the teams to be physical and not call a multitude of fouls to let the game’s 80 minutes run faster.

Both defenses and both goalies were the stars of the afternoon. Each goalie — Ridgefield junior Kelly Chittenden and Staples senior Marisa Shorrock — registered nine saves.

The Tigers defeated Fairfield Warde, 3-1, on Monday in Fairfield.

Megan Klosowski, Slaminko, and Michalowski had the goals for Ridgefield, which improved to 10-0-3 going into yesterday’s game against Wilton.