Field hockey: Ridgefield opens state tourney with 4-1 victory

After losing to Greenwich in the conference quarterfinals, the Ridgefield High field hockey team made sure it wouldn't have another early postseason exit.

Getting two goals apiece from senior Katie Pieterse and sophomore Cate Irving, 15th-seed Ridgefield routed 18th-seed Conard, 4-1, in a Class L state tournament qualifying-round game Monday afternoon at Tiger Hollow.

Ridgefield (10-6-1-1) will now play second-seed Cheshire in a first-round game Wednesday at Cheshire High School. The winner advances to the Class L quarterfinals (Friday or Saturday, time TBA) against either seventh-seed Staples or 10th-seed Wilton

Ahead just 1-0 at halftime in Monday's contest, the Tigers asserted control in the second half, scoring three unanswered goals to go ahead, 4-0. Conard avoided a shutout by getting a goal in the final minutes.

It took the Tigers a mere eight minutes to land the game's opening goal. A deflection of Caroline Bunt’s shot awarded Ridgefield a penalty corner, aligning Pieterse for a drive into the goal and a digit on the scoreboard.

“We’ve always been a team that requires a slight kickstart,” said Irving. “Although we were quick to secure our first goal, I think we needed the second half to remind us of the depth of the game, and how this was the seniors’ last match on the Tiger Hollow turf. Once this became engrained in our minds, we were able to rally and truly play as a team.”

The camaraderie was evident on Ridgefield's second goal, as Irving stepped up to finish what Pieterse had started. Pieterse's sweeping shot was initially deflected by an onslaught of Conard defenders, but Irving was there to tap the ball in, putting the Tigers in front, 2-0.

Two minutes later, Irving’s delivery off a corner found Pieterse, who blasted in her second goal to push Ridgefield's lead to 3-0.

“We wanted to be there for each other as a team,” said Pieterse. “We knew that in order to steal a win, we would simply need to play for each other.”

Irving topped off the Ridgefield scoring on another corner play. After the ball was sent into the circle, Irving outmaneuvered the commotion by the net and knock a shot into the Conard goal.

Following a timeout, Cheshire got on the scoreboard, as Kaitlin Schulken sent a shot past Ridgefield goalie Ellie Kaiser with two minutes left. But that was it for the Chieftains, who saw their season end with the 4-1 loss.

“This game was exactly how the seniors wanted to wrap up our time at Tiger Hollow,” said Pieterse. “And now we’re looking forward to moving up in the [Class L] tournament. If we keep our mental strength high and keep enjoying what we’re doing, I think we have a chance to make the end of the season truly memorable.”