For the first time, the Ridgefield High girls soccer team enters a season as defending state champs.

After losses in the finals to unbeaten Glastonbury teams the previous two years, Ridgefield defeated Staples, 2-0, in the Class LL title game last November, earning the program a long elusive state championship.

With many players returning, the Tigers will once again be aiming for postseason crowns. Ridgefield won FCIAC titles in 2015 and 2016 before losing to Staples in the conference semifinals last fall — the Tigers then avenged that setback by beating Staples in the state finals.

“Last season was obviously a good one for us,” said Ridgefield head coach Iain Golding, whose team finished with a 16-3-3 record. “It’s never easy to win a state title.”

Although the Tigers did lose several stalwarts to graduation — defenders Kathryn Barlow (an All-State selection) and Anna Landler and midfielders Emma Jacobson and Erika Linke — the team has plenty of talented, experienced players back this year.

Senior Mackenzie Robson, junior Caitlin Slaminko and sophomores Faith Arnold and Tasha Riek give Ridgefield a mix of forwards with speed, tenacity and goal-scoring skills, while seniors Grace Girvalo, Katherine King and Caitlin Inall, juniors Megan Klosowski and Hannah Boylan, and sophomore Grace Michalowski lead the midfield.

The backline features senior centerback Claire Middlebrook, a four-year starter who reads the game well and is also a threat on free kicks and corner kicks. Middlebrook scored both Ridgefield goals in last season’s state title win.

Seniors Amelia Hynes and Carrina Dabroi, juniors Carolyn Donovan and Alexandra Kinkead, and sophomores Eva McKinley and Sydney Giordano are vying for the three other starting spots on the backline.

“We graduated more defenders than in the years before,” said Golding. “That’s been an area of strength for us, but we need some new starters to step up.”

Senior Lauren Castle and sophomore Kelly Chittenden return as Ridgefield’s goalies, while three newcomers — junior forward Sophie Simonsen, freshman forward Julia Bragg and freshman defender Meredith Clifford — could also make an impact.

“The FCIAC is going to be very strong this season, and I’m sure there will be some very good teams elsewhere in the state,” said Golding. “Obviously, we are going to have to work hard and keep improving in order to challenge for championships.”

Notes: Ridgefield opens the season on Saturday (Sept. 8) in Stamford against Trinity Catholic at 11 a.m.

The Tigers have a combined 54-9-6 record over the last three seasons.