Ridgefield blanks Greenwich for fifth straight win

Seconds into Saturday afternoon's game at Tiger Hollow, the Greenwich High girls soccer team produced an early chance that led to a shot on goal.

The Cardinals couldn't convert, however, and it would be their only significant scoring opportunity of the first half as Ridgefield’s backline — led by junior Claire Middlebrook and senior captain Kathryn Barlow — consistently stunted the Greenwich attack.

Ridgefield, meanwhile, managed a goal towards the end of each half and defeated the Cardinals, 2-0, for its fifth consecutive victory.

With senior midfielders Emma Jacobson and Erika Linke setting the tempo, an experienced backline plugging Greenwich’s offensive threats, and a young offense converting opportunities at crucial moments, Ridgefield dominated the game for all 80 minutes on Saturday.

Early in the first half, Ridgefield (5-0-1) found its first scoring chance when Middlebrook beat a Greenwich defender on a long run into the corner and registered Ridgefield’s first shot on goal. Greenwich countered with a corner kick that was cleared by a Ridgefield header. Back on the attack, Middlebrook took a free kick  from 40 yards out that was saved by the Greenwich keeper.

From there, the Ridgefield offense was mainly facilitated by senior defender Anna Landler, who delivered a brilliant through ball past two Greenwich defenders to set up a run by Carrina Dabroi that was whistled offsides. In the 10th minute, Landler recorded two shots on goal in quick succession from the right side of the field, navigating the difficult angle to yield scoring chances for Ridgefield.

Ridgefield’s offense got another opportunity in the 16th minute as forward Caitlin Slaminko made a deep run and took a shot that beat the Greenwich goalie but went a few feet wide right. Ten minutes later, Emma Langis found Slaminko on a cross, leading to a shot that was deflected by a Greenwich defender.

In the 18th minute, Langis was fouled deep in Greenwich territory. Slaminko took the free kick, which glanced off the hands of the Greenwich keeper, onto the crossbar.

The breakthrough came with six minutes remaining in the half. On a corner kick, freshman Faith Arnold  found Middlebrook, whose glancing header gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

“We were having some trouble finishing today and I knew we had to take advantage of every change we got," said Middlebrook. "The service from the corner kick from Faith was perfect and I just had to redirect it.”

Greenwich’s best chance came just moments after the start of the second half, with forward Kim Kockenmeister getting behind the Ridgefield defense and going one-on-one with keeper Lauren Castle. Kockenmeister’s shot glanced off the hands of Castle, who quickly recovered the ball.

Arnold found Slaminko in the 54th minute for a shot on goal; a minute later, Arnold again connected with Slaminko for a shot toward the upper right that made for a tough save by Greenwich’s goalie.

Three minutes later, Slaminko made hard contact with a Greenwich while battling for possession. Following a consult with Ridgefield head coach Iain Golding and the athletic trainer, Slaminko sat the rest of the game.

Ridgefield’s final goal came off a corner kick by Langis that led to a scrum in front of the Greenwich net. Mackenzie Robson ended up with control of the ball, finding the back of the net to push the lead to 2-0 with one minute remaining.

“It was key that we powered through and got the win, but we certainly have some work to do,” said Landler. “We need to ensure that we improve — just as every other team in the FCIAC is improving throughout the rest of this season — and that we are ready as competition gets tougher.”