Norwalk holds off Ridgefield for 5-3 victory

Despite a newfound energy that surfaced in the second half, the Ridgefield High field hockey team was unable to catch Norwalk on Friday afternoon.

The unbeaten, high-scoring Bears built a 5-1 halftime lead and then held off Ridgefield to register a 5-3 victory at Tiger Hollow.

Norwalk entered the game with four straight wins to start the season, outscoring its opponents 31-0 in the process. It didn't take long for the visitors to display those offensive skills, as Lauren Deering revived a corner insert by slapping the ball through a series of Ridgefield defenders and into the goal, just two minutes into the first half.

The Tigers, though, were quick to respond. Just eight minutes later, junior Maddie Peters relayed the ball upfield to sophomore Cate Irving, who placed a precise pass across the goal to senior Julia Wilson. From there, Wilson took control as her perfect shot sailed into the goal, leveling the score at 1-1.

Norwalk (5-0) proceeded with a series of corner plays, two of which lacked a clean insert or precise lift into the goal area. The third time proved the charm, however, as Betsy Burke received a feed from the line and forcefully drove the ball from the top of the circle and into the Ridgefield goal.

Even a Ridgefield time-out could not not break the Bears' momentum, as Norwalk was able to add its third goal despite the impressive diving efforts of senior goalie Ellie Kaiser. The Bears scored again just a minute after, with Burke maneuvering her way into the circle and sending a slapshot into the goal for a 4-1 lead.

Ridgefield (4-1-0-1) used multiple relays from Ellie O’Connor and Natalie Silver to deliver the ball to Irving and Bella Carrozza, but the Norwalk defense was able to defuse the threats.

The first half then ended the same way it had begun: Off a corner, Norwalk notched its fifth goal on an impressive lift into the top-right corner of the Ridgefield net.

“Field hockey is 50% a mental game and 50% your physical game,”said Ridgefield senior Caroline Bunt. “We came together as a team during halftime, and we found the motivation to put our heads in the game and battle back.”

Throughout the second half, the Tigers kept Norwalk off-balance. Eight minutes after the break, Irving collected a powerful feed from Wilson and beat the Norwalk goalie for an impressive breakaway goal.

“I’ve practiced that shot a million times, and despite that fact that the sole dependence of that shot fell on me, I knew that I could do it,” said Irving. “I think tonight’s biggest problem was mental strength, and so I wanted and needed to be strong for my team."

Finally, after repetitive clears from the defense and Kaiser’s blocks in goal, the Tigers were able to get within 5-3 shortly before the game ended. Carrozza performed a series of dodges to move down the field and into the Bears’ circle, and senior Sammi Petruzzelli came to her aid and finished off the play by driving the ball into the goal.

“At first, we were lacking in communication and finding the right headspace," said Kaiser. "But after halftime, we really came together in a headstrong way.”

“They were constantly on us, so whenever we received a ball, we had to keep our heads up, both literally and figuratively,” added Silver. “It took us a bit, but I believe we were able to do that.”