With a mix of experienced returnees and younger players contributing, the Ridgefield High girls lacrosse team opened the 2018 season with an 11-3 annihilation of St. Joseph on Saturday at Tiger Hollow.

Senior Katie Hoban led Ridgefield with five goals, including a first-half hat trick.

“I think we played really well being the first official game of the season,” said Hoban, one of the Tigers’ captains. “Of course there is always room for improvement, but I am really proud of my team and I think we showed what we bring to the table this season.”

Offensively and defensively, Ridgefield looked to be in mid-season form by the end of the game. Of St. Joseph’s three goals, two came in the final 90 seconds of the second half.

The defense, led by captain Lexi Pass, Erika Linke, Karley Smith, Samantha Lehaney, and Bella Carrozza was superb, and sophomore goalie Lexi Held made 10 saves, including a few denials on one-on-one situations.

“We have some new players and some returners so it's nice to see that we really worked together today as a unit,” said Pass about the Ridgefield defense. “The communication was there — our slides were there. I'm overall really happy with the defense for our first game. The three goals that [St. Joseph scored] — we identified the problem for all of them and are going to work on ironing out any kinks ...”

The midfield helped control the game for the Tigers, particularly at the start of the second half. St. Joseph couldn’t sustain an offensive sequence on the Ridgefield side of the field for the first 15 minutes of the second half.

After showing a little early season rust, Ridgefield went ahead 1-0 when Hoban scored on a free shot nearly eight minutes into the game.

The next nine minutes were turnover heavy for both teams until the Cadets evened the score with 8:12 left in the half, converting on a nice curl around the net and a ground ball shot.

Ridgefield finally found its footing offensively after Caitlin Slaminko was fouled with 6:08 remaining. On the ensuing free shot, Slaminko scored on a blast towards the top of the net to double the Tigers’ lead.

Senior captain Caroline Curnal then won the face-off, and Hoban weaved through a pack of defenders before firing a shot into the upper corner of the St. Joseph net. In a span of 30 seconds, Ridgefield had a 3-1 lead.

The next Ridgefield goal came off another free shot, as Hoban completed her hat trick with 1:51 left in the half.

The Tigers weren’t done yet, though. With the clock ticking down, Linke scored on a buzzer-beater to extend Ridgefield’s halftime lead to 5-1.

“I think we stopped trying to force goals and started working with each other more,” said Ridgefield head coach Cece Berger. “The ball movement — and getting the other team to move more defensively — helped as well.”

The goals kept coming in the second half, with Hoban scoring twice in the first four minutes. The latter goal came off a tight shot when Hoban was almost parallel to the net.

Slaminko, Curnal, Aly Gagnon, and Lauren Whalen added goals to put the Tigers ahead 11-1 before St. Joseph scored twice in the final two minutes.

“Defense played a really strong game and Lexi (Held) had some really nice saves, some open saves especially early on,” said Berger. “I think our first-team defense was really communicating well and working together.”

Notes: Curnal added two assists for Ridgefield.

Carrozza forced five turnovers and controlled three loose balls.