Seniors star in Ridgefield's 3-0 win over Danbury

It’s no secret that the root of the Ridgefield High field hockey team's success this season lies with a superb senior class. So on a night when they were recognized, it was fitting that those seniors were at the forefront.

Getting two goals from senior Sammi Petruzzelli and one from classmate Katie Pieterse, Ridgefield ended the regular season with a 3-0 Senior Night victory over Danbury on Wednesday evening at Tiger Hollow.

The eighth-seeded Tigers (9-5-1-1) will now play top-seed Greenwich (14-2-0-0) in an FCIAC quarterfinal contest Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Greenwich High School. The Cardinals defeated Ridgefield, 2-0, earlier this season.

Wednesday’s Senior Night game featured a new starting lineup for the Tigers — one sporting all 11 of their 12th graders in what might be their last game at home. However, the high energy and almost anxious desire for a win led Ridgefield to open the contest with too frantic a demeanor.

“Senior Night is notorious for its jitters and weight,” said Ridgefield head coach Madelaine Hutchings. “Sometimes the girls are actually too amped up prior to game time, but tonight they quickly realized that they needed to regroup and play in the connected manner that they can do so well.”

What the Tigers lacked in communication, they initially made up for in aggressiveness: Senior Caroline Bunt sprinted to keep the ball inbounds, and Pieterse used her stick skills to prevent Danbury from taking possession.

After a scoreless first half, Ridgefield made its intent clear by forcing Danbury into two penalty corners within the first three minutes of the second half. On the second of those corners, Pieterse took a forceful slap shot that Petruzzelli tapped in to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Now empowered, Ridgefield kept applying pressure. The result was a foul on the Danbury goalie that gave the Tigers a penalty stroke, and Pieterse calmly lifted her shot into the corner of the net to push Ridgefield's lead to 2-0.

A minute later, Petruzzelli tacked on her second goal after senior Julia Wilson maneuvered the ball into position for a shot.

“Those goals were beautiful,” said Hutchings. “We had been practicing that transfer-and-entering into the offensive side, and I was thrilled to see that they were able to implement that into a game.”

Ahead 3-0, Ridgefield relied on its teamwork to keep the Hatters scoreless the rest of the way.

“We’ve all been playing together for the longest time,” said senior Julia McSpedon, a force on defense for the Tigers. “We couldn’t be closer, and that enables us to trust each other and communicate when we’re on the field.”

Every senior had her moment: Natalie Silver delivered precise inserts on Ridgefield's eight corners; Lexi Pass avoided defenders as she sent the ball down the sideline; Delia McInerney and Maeve Colarusso intercepted passes, dispatching the ball to Kate Lang, who took off on transition plays toward the Danbury goal; and goalie Ellie Kaiser kept Danbury off the scoreboard.

In the waning minutes, Kaiser moved out of the goal to play on offense, and Wilson got a surprise as her younger sister, Maddie, sprinted onto the field to join her.

“It was our heart in this game that allowed us to win,” said Petruzzelli. “Our heart combined with how close of friends we are was exactly what we needed in order to win our last game.”