Ridgefield beats New Canaan in FCIAC girls soccer finals

Time to find some more space in the trophy cabinet.

With a 1-0 victory in the FCIAC finals Thursday night, the Ridgefield High girls soccer team contributed yet another piece of hardware to the school's collection.

It was the fourth post-season championship in the last four years for the Tigers, who have a chance to add to the haul by defending their title in the upcoming Class LL tournament.

After having their two-year conference reign end in the semifinals last fall, Ridgefield returned to the top of the FCIAC by beating New Canaan, 1-0, at Fairfield Warde High School.

“Obviously, winning three out of four years, that’s a tremendous feeling,” said Ridgefield senior Claire Middlebrook, who was named the final’s MVP. “After last year, we were ready to reclaim our title.”

Following nearly 70 scoreless minutes, Ridgefield sophomore Grace Michalowski got the game's only goal by popping a shot over New Canaan goalie Jordan Paterson and into the right corner of the net with just over 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

Middlebrook started the winning play with a long free kick from 40 yards out. The ball pin-balled around the left side of the box before Michalowski was able to get her left-foot on it for a 1-0 Ridgefield lead.

“Yesterday, I worked with our assistant coach really practicing those free kicks and placement,” Middlebrook said. “I just placed it into the general goal area and Grace was there to get on the end of it.”

Defenders Amelia Hynes, Carrina Dabroi, Carolyn Donovan, and Middlebrook and keeper Lauren Castle (five saves) then made that goal stand up for the Tigers.

In the process, third-seed Ridgefield not only regained the league title but also avenged its only two losses of the season, defeating second-seed St. Joseph in the semis and fourth-seed New Canaan in the final.

“We managed to beat St. Joe’s in the semifinal and New Canaan now,” said Ridgefield head coach Iain Golding. “For us, those were tough losses, but at the same time, you learn from them, you grow from them, and we’ve taken what happened in those games and changed what we do so we could beat them.”

“When you get to these finals, it’s always won by fine margins,” said New Canaan head coach Rich Hickson. “Today was certainly the case. We battled extremely hard for 80 minutes; we were in the game and we created chances. But credit to Ridgefield; they took one of the chances they created.”