Defense shines in Ridgefield's win over Wilton

In an 8-1 loss two nights earlier, a dominant Yorktown defense held the Ridgefield High boys lacrosse team scoreless for more than three quarters.

On Thursday evening, it was the Tigers' defense that did the dominating.

Ridgefield kept arch-rival Wilton scoreless for the second and third quarters, paving the way for an impressive 12-7 triumph at Tiger Hollow.

Based on the opening quarter, a fast-breaking, high-scoring game seemed more likely: With each team converting on quick transition attacks, Wilton led 5-4 at the end of the frantic first 12 minutes.

But the Warriors didn't get their next goal until the fourth quarter.

"We really stepped up the intensity and physicality once we got used to their game," said senior Luke Gaydos, who teamed with fellow defensemen Noah Isaacson, Michael Dobson and Jack Dowd to shut down Wilton. "We played as a unit and were really great with our communication and being on the same page."

Isaacson, in particular, had a phenomenal game. He limited Wilton junior Connor Drake — a Duke commit who is the fifth-ranked player in the 2019 recruiting class — to just one early goal.

“Overall, we're really happy with how we played tonight," said Isaacson. "The defense and offense were phenomenal. We knew their offense was high-powered and that Drake is a great player, but I was able to trust everyone behind me and Dan [Parson] in net, which really allowed me to be successful in my match-up.”

Parson finished with nine saves, including a few dazzling denials with his feet.

After a rough outing against Yorktown, Ridgefield's offense was able to find its footing. Reid Kagan had three goals (all in the second quarter) and an assist, while Dawson Muller added a goal and three assists while serving as a key facilitator for the attack.

James Isaacson, Weston Carpenter, and John Mathes added two goals apiece, and Ray Dearth and Noah Gels each scored one goal for the Tigers, who raised their record to 3-1.

“Our biggest difference as a team in general was our mentality; we were ready right from the start," said Muller. "We wanted to get off to a quick lead, but unlike [against] Yorktown our offense was patient. We didn’t feel the need to press; tonight we stayed within the offense and took advantage when the opportunities opened up. This allowed a lot of players to make meaningful contributions throughout the game.”

Ridgefield was able to equal its previous game’s offensive output within the first 46 seconds, as Carpenter scored for a quick 1-0 lead. James Isaacson then ran through the defense, dodged a defender, and beat Wilton goalie Andrew Calabrese (seven saves) to put the Tigers ahead 2-0.

Wilton evened the score with two goals in 13 seconds, but Muller responded by weaving around the Wilton defense and scoring to put the Tigers back in front. Fifteen seconds later, Wilton continued the rapid-fire pattern and tied the game at 3-3.

After the Warriors used strong ball movement to take their first lead of the day, Gaydos created a turnover with 1:55 remaining in the opening quarter and picked up the loose ball to give Ridgefield possession. Dearth followed with a goal on a blistering shot from the top of the box, tying the score at 4-4.

One last offensive push allowed Wilton to score with eight seconds left and take a 5-4 lead going into the second period.

Ridgefield's defense buckled down in the second quarter, and the Tigers got three goals from Kagan and one from Mathes to go ahead 8-5 at halftime. Mathes and Carpenter added goals in the third period, pushing Ridgefield's lead to 10-5 entering the final quarter.

Each team scored twice in the fourth period as the Tigers finished off their 12-7 victory.

"I'm really proud of how our offense responded after last game," said Kagan. "We switched our sets, but that win is attributed to a change in mindset. We came out and made a decision to be the tougher, more driven team.

"Nothing the offense did would have been possible without the D," added Kagan. "I mean, Noah Isaacson with the game of his life; Luke Gaydos, Dobby [Michael Dobson], and Jack Dowd making plays all over the field. Those guys are an absolute wall.”

Notes: The game was shown live on the HAN Network. To watch on-demand, click here.