Ridgefield advances to state quarterfinals with OT win over Staples

The goal may have been routine, but the sequence leading up to it was a thing of beauty.

With three minutes left in the first of two 10-minute overtime sessions Monday night, Ridgefield striker JT Siano sent a brilliant through ball to defender Michael Grevers, whose shot struck the left post of the Staples goal. But the rebound went straight to the feet of midfielder Alex Glass, who calmly tapped the ball into the net.

Ridgefield then kept Staples scoreless to close out the 1-0 triumph in a Class LL state tournament second-round game Wednesday evening at Tiger Hollow.

Seeded fifth Ridgefield (14-4-1), will now face 20th-seed Norwalk in the Class LL quarterfinals on Friday (time TBD) at Tiger Hollow. Norwalk beat 29th-seed Fairfield Warde, 2-1, in overtime, in another second-round game earlier today.

Staples, the 21st seed, ends the season with a 10-6-4 record.

Strong play from both defenses marked the first half of Wednesday night's game. Having met previously in a regular-season contest that ended in a 0-0 tie, Staples and Ridgefield found difficulty converting chances in this game as well.

After the opening minutes saw both offenses struggle to gain any traction, Ridgefield registered its first shot on goal in the 28th minute when midfielder Niels van Beek made a shifty run past a defender and ripped a shot from nearly 30 yards out.

With six minutes remaining in the half, the Tigers produced a pair of quality chances. A free kick from defender Ben Sasse led to a collision between Ridgefield's Ruben Mendoza and Staples goalkeeper Teddy O’Kane. The ball bounced to Christian DeVivo, who gained control and managed a shot that O'Kane saved.

Under a minute later, Lucas Debarbieri contested a 50-50 ball with O’Kane, knocking the ball out of the keeper's hands and out of bounds.

After struggling to register a shot in the first 40 minutes, Staples opened the second half with its best chance of the night. Off a free kick, Azam Plummer slipped past the Ridgefield defense and gained control, looking to go in alone on goalie Ray Dearth. But as Plummer started to take a shot, Sasse came sweeping in from seemingly out of nowhere to block the attempt.

With a minute remaining in regulation, van Beek embarked on a run from midfield and rocketed a shot that forced a diving save from O’Kane.

Three minutes into the first overtime, Grevers sent a one-touch shot from nearly 40 yards out that careened off the lower half of the Staples crossbar.

That near-strike seemed to electrify the Ridgefield offense. Four minutes later, Siano, Grevers and Glass combined for the sequence that netted the game-winner.

“Normally as a defender, you’re not encouraged to attack the goal, but I saw an opening in their defense and JT [Siano] played me a great through ball,” said Grevers. “When the goalie came out, I tried to shoot around him and the shot went a little wide and bounced off the post. Luckily, Scooter [Glass] was there to finish the job.”

In the end, it was experience that lifted senior-laden Ridgefield to its biggest victory this season.

“Going into overtime we knew from our FCIAC playoff game against Danbury [a 1-0 loss] that we had to score first in order to gain leverage and seal the deal,” said senior captain Nick David. “We were especially cautious in giving up corner kicks and free kicks because Staples has a tall lineup. The gameplan was to score before time expired. We knew that was how we would win.”