FAIRFIELD — Alex Damron awoke Monday morning not knowing if she would be cleared to play in one of her team’s biggest games of the season.
Damron went to bed Monday night a hero.
Damron, the speedy and very underrated forward for Ridgefield High School’s girls soccer team, scored her first career hat trick in a 3-1 Class LL semifinal win over New Canaan. The sixth-seeded Tigers (15-2-3), winners now of 12 straight games, will face No. 1 Glastonbury in pursuit of their first state title. Their only other final appearance came in 1992.
Damron sustained a blow to the head in a 3-2 quarterfinal win over Hall on Friday. She was cleared to play Monday morning. After Ridgefield coach Alex Harrison removed Damron from the game moments after her final score, she turned to him and said, “I should get hit in the head more often.”
Usually it is leading scorer Katie Jasminski on the finishing end for the Tigers, but she was closely marked and seldom given space to turn in the first half. Adeptly, Jasminski went from finisher to playmaker, assisting on all three goals.
“I was only joking, I don’t want to get hit in the head,” Damron said, then adding, “It seemed to work. It really felt great. Katie has scored a lot of goals for us. It was nice that I could score some too.”
The game was scoreless until the 45th minute, when following a reset off a corner kick, Jasminski got the ball to Damron for a hard volley and a 1-0 lead.
“She’s a wonderful player. She’s one of the best players this program has ever had,” Harrison said. “She’s done it all season. When you are a wide forward some nights you get lucky and some nights you don’t. Some nights you are hot. She was hot tonight.”
New Canaan (11-9), enjoying a great tournament run, was outplayed in time of possession for most of the night but the defense marked tightly. After awarded a set piece from 30 yards out, New Canaan coach Kirk Bamford opted to bring up his keeper, Katie Donovan, to take the attempt in the 67th minute. She drilled a perfect shot high to tie the game at 1-1.
“I knew when she hit the ball it would be going close or be in the back of the net, and she made a great connection.” Bamford said.
Damron never allowed the Rams to play with any momentum, however, putting the Tigers back on top a minute later when she headed in a delivery by Jasminski. She added her final goal in the 73rd minute.
“We came back after their goal with a ton of energy,” Damron said. “It really just felt like we had to put one away, and Katie put a great ball in and I was able to get on the end of it.”
New Canaan was outscored, 20-3, during a five-game midseason losing streak, though it was a period when the team was hobbled by injuries.
“I’m just proud of my girls,” Bamford said. “We proved a lot of people wrong.”
Ridgefield defeated St. Joseph to win the FCIAC title, which sometimes can cause complacency. But the Tigers have maintained their energy level in the state playoffs.
“It’s a sticky situation sometimes when you win an FCIAC championship,” Harrison said. “We have a championship under our belts, how much do you want a second one? These kids really want a second one. They want to win a state championship.”