FAIRFIELD — There is a not-so-subtle line between attaining and maintaining success, and the difference has created an aura around the Ridgefield High School girls soccer team.
A year ago at this time the Tigers were hoping to become a championship team, and the looks were buoyant.
Now, with an FCIAC championship under their belts, the Tigers have a steely resolve at the outset on the road to retention, one that continued Thursday night with a 3-0 win at Fairfield Ludlowe.
“Everyone is loud, everyone is supporting each other on,” said Alyssa Bonanno, the Tigers’ skilled and cerebral midfielder. “It’s a very supportive environment. It really allows us to thrive off of it. Last year was great but I feel we are picking it up.”
Ridgefield dominated possession time but did little with it during the first half against the Falcons. Befitting of their experience, rather than get flummoxed the Tigers regrouped and finished plays over the final 40 minutes.
“In the first half we didn’t create many chances,” said Iain Golding, an assistant a year ago who was elevated in the offseason when coach Alex Harrison departed. Ludlowe defended very well and handled our attack. “We got more space, more time to shoot and we took them.”
Katie Jasminski, a ferocious finisher, made the score 1-0 in the 41st minute, slamming home the rebound of a shot by Alex Damron off a play orchestrated by Natalie Brassinga.
Jasminski, whose facial expression changes when she senses opportunity, scored again off a scramble in the 64th minute.
“I just love running onto the balls,” Jasminski said. “I know I can catch them. I think we just started more combinations. I think at the beginning we were kicking it forward and hoping the forwards would run onto it. In the second half we really got it down and got it wide.”
The third goal was typical of the beautiful soccer the Tigers can generate. Damron, whose precision on set pieces is a valued weapon, delivered a perfect corner kick in front of the goal, and Bonanno timed the connection and headed the ball into the net in the 78th minute.
It was like the signature to fine art.
“Alex Damron had great crosses all game and I was just glad I could put one of them in,” Bonanno said. “They are all in the area we expect them to be and I just got there first. She’s very consistent with her crosses and makes it very easy to know where we’re supposed to be, and that mentality that we are going to get there first because we want to score definitely helps out.”
Few defending champions have been as well equipped to repeat as these Tigers. There are nine players back and the starting lineup has no weaknesses. Goaltender Julia Middlebrook had an easy night, with just one save.
Perhaps even more impressive is the team’s mindset. Players arrive and warm up with business-like confidence, but none of the hubris that has prevented others from going back to back.
“People are double marking up top and know that we have good set pieces and like to play the through balls,” Jasminski said. “We just play our own game and it works out.”
If the Tigers’ quest is going to be derailed, it will be because of better execution by one of several strong contenders looking to play the role Ridgefield did last fall.
“It’s a very tough league with a lot of good teams,” Golding said. “Being FCIAC champions proves we’re a good team. With that comes the pressure and responsibility.”
The Tigers are a year older but, as Bonanno noted, don’t discount the value of also being a year wiser.
Asked if there were any areas that have impressed her a week into the season, Bonanno said, “Definitely the team chemistry. Every year we try to pick it up a notch and I think we are doing it this year.”