WESTPORT – A back-and-forth overtime thriller — now that’s the type of game that would get the participating teams’ competitive juices flowing again, after they were unable to compete for a full season.
That’s exactly the tense matchup the Staples and Ridgefield girls lacrosse teams experienced when they met today in their long-awaited 2021 season-opener.
Trading goals throughout, both squads each had their moments but the final one belonged to Staples’ McKenzie Didio.
A junior attack, Didio’s goal with 2:21 remaining in the sudden-victory overtime session lifted host Staples to an exciting 11-10 win.
“It feels great to win a game like that and it’s amazing to be back out here playing again,” said Didio, who recorded a hat trick with one assist. “I’m just glad that we had the opportunity to play, in general.”
The game marked the first time the Wreckers and Tigers played since the 2019 season. Everyone was sidelined in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was a great game, it’s a good way to open up,” Ridgefield coach Cece Berger said. “Both teams were fighting for the win. A one-goal overtime game — you can’t ask for a better heart from both teams.”
On the winning goal, senior Charlotte Barnes moved the ball to a cutting Didio on the right side. Didio sent a high shot over the stick of a Ridgefield defender and past goalie Bella Crowley, sending the Wreckers to victory.
Kate Smith helped set the scene for Didio’s winning goal, gaining a key draw control to start overtime. Staples took possession and patiently passed the ball around the perimeter, before eventually tallying.
“Well going into overtime, we knew we had to stay composed and I think the most important thing going into overtime was winning that draw, because it was back-and-forth the whole game,” Didio said. “Kate Smith really stepped up, winning that draw and we were able to set up what we talked about at the end of the game.”
Coming off a screen, Didio found herself open to receive pass, then quickly unleashed her shot.
“The game-winning goal was part of our motion offense and the girls were looking to work together and get open,” Staples coach Nicole Gerosa said. “Ridgefield was a great early test for us. It was a testament to both teams that we hung in it until the end.”
Senior attack Shira Parower scored a team-high five goals and added two assists to pace Staples’ offense. Barnes tallied one goal and four assists, while Maya Reiner had one goal and one assist for the Wreckers, who received nine saves from junior goalie Sara DiGiovanni.
“The tempo that we kept the entire game was high and we just brought the energy,” said Parower, who will play lacrosse at James Madison University next season. “We kept composed and kept working together and scoring goals. It was a good first game for us as we get back to playing again.”
Ridgefield received a five-goal, one-assist effort from senior attack Riley Peters and two goals and one assist from senior attack Mary Hage.
“I’m most proud of the effort on our team and our ability to connect, even though we didn’t have a season last year, so I’m happy about that,” Hage said. “There’s definitely some stuff we need to fix in practice, but overall, I thought it was a really good first game and there’s a lot of spirit on our team.”
A goal by Peters gave Ridgefield a 10-9 lead with 3:57 remaining in the second half. The Tigers had possession with the one-goal lead with under three minutes left, but the Wreckers forced a turnover and took possession. Parower came through in the clutch, tallying off an assist from senior attack Lexie Moskovit, making it 10-10 with 2:07 remaining in regulation.
Getting three goals from Parower in the first half, Staples entered halftime with a 7-6 edge. Didio’s goal at the 5:39 mark of the opening half gave the Wreckers their biggest lead at 7-4, but transition tallies from Hage and Peters brought the Tigers to within one at the half.
Goals were tough to come by during the second half, as both squads clamped down defensively.
“It definitely became a really physical game, but we stayed composed and that’s why we were able come away with the win,” Didio said.
Goals from senior midfielder Faith Arnold (two assists, five draw controls) and Aerin Krys (two goals), put Ridgefield in front, 8-7, early in the second half, before Parower knotted the score with goal off a pass from senior Mia Didio with 19:54 to go.
“It was a back-and-forth game and the middies were up and down the field — great two-way middies — playing great defense and great offense,” Gerosa said. “One thing we did in the second half that helped us is we adjusted our defense a little bit to limit our fouls.”
Crowley made 11 saves in goal for the Tigers, who host St. Joseph on Thursday.
“I am super excited about the potential of our team,” Hage said. “We have a lot of athleticism on our team and a lot of heart. If we put the pieces together more, we’re going to be a really good team.”
Staples, which was led defensively by Julia DiConza, is back in action Thursday against visiting Stamford.
“Today was a good start and we have a lot of room to grow,” Gerosa said. “We have a lot of potential to compete with the best teams in the FCIAC this season.”