Ridgefield beats Simsbury, 3-0, advances to state finals

An opponent's scouting report on the Ridgefield High girls soccer team should make one thing clear: Don't foul the Tigers on your side of the field.

With Claire Middlebrook taking free kicks, Ridgefield is a threat to score from anywhere inside midfield. Simsbury became the latest team to learn that lesson in Monday night's Class LL state semifinal game at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury.

Middlebrook scored twice on long free kicks and had another set piece headed in by teammate Caitlin Slaminko as seventh-seed Ridgefield defeated 19th-seed Simsbury, 3-0.

The victory sends the Tigers (20-2-1) into the Class LL title game for the fourth straight season. Ridgefield will play fifth-seed Staples (a 1-0 winner over top-seed Glastonbury in the other semifinal Monday) on Saturday (site and time TBA) in a rematch of last year's final, which the Tigers won, 2-0.

Middlebrook's first goal Monday evening came with 24:23 left in the opening half, as she launched a free kick from nearly 40 yards out that sailed over Simsbury goalie Lauren Paradis (eight saves) and into the back of the net.

Less than four minutes later, Middlebrook made it 2-0 by scoring on another free kick from a similar distance.

“When I took the free kicks, I focused on the ball and striking it to get it in the general goal area for my teammates,” said Middlebrook.

Ridgefield's final goal came just over six minutes into the second half. Middlebrook sent a diagonal free kick that found Slaminko, who headed the ball into Simsbury's net for a 3-0 advantage.

Middlebrook and fellow defenders Carrina Dabroi, Carolyn Donovan and Amelia Hynes ensured that the lead was more than enough by limiting Simsbury to two shots on goal, both of which were stopped by Ridgefield keeper Lauren Castle.

Now, the Tigers will turn their attention to conference rival Staples. The teams played to a 0-0 tie during a regular-season game Oct. 9.

“For us, we want to win and we will definitely prepare to play for that,” said Middlebrook.

Notes: Ridgefield outshot Simsbury, 27-3. Tasha Riek, Faith Arnold and Middlebrook took five shots apiece for the Tigers.

Before beating Staples in last year's Class LL final, Ridgefield lost to unbeaten Glastonbury teams in the 2015 and 2016 championship games.