WILTON — Charlotte Kemp expressed a small measure of disbelief about her equalizing goal in the 53rd minute that would give the Ridgefield girls soccer team a 1-1 tie at Wilton in today’s opening game of the fall season, the first FCIAC sporting event in 172 days.
“I was just sort of like in the right place at the right time,” Kemp, usually known for her defensive prowess, said with a smile. “I took a chance. I was so surprised it went in.”
Kemp seemed to be discussing her marksmanship, but she could have just as easily have been referring to the degree of difficulty getting a shot by Erynn Floyd, the Warriors’ spectacular goalkeeper.
In a followup to her first two seasons, Floyd was magnificent, using her acrobatics to earn her side one point after Ridgefield overcame a deficit and dominated the final 30 minutes of an entertaining game.
“She is in my opinion, and maybe I come off as biased but I believe and I think the other coaches in the FCIAC believe, she’s the best keeper in the state,” Wilton coach Renato Topali said. “We play some of the best teams around. This is no surprise. What she’s doing now she’s been doing since she was a freshman. It’s good to see her play to the level she’s capable of.”
There was the shot by the Tigers’ Eva McKinley punched over the crossbar, the leaping stop to rob Julia Bragg, the sprawling deflection on one side of the goal on a corner kick by Faith Arnold and the cat-like quickness to get to the other side and make a diving save on the rebound.
And that was just a 15-minute stretch in the first half.
“I think it was just the mindset there’s this rivalry with Ridgefield and it keeps me going,” Floyd said. “I’m not letting the ball in the net. We’re getting the first goal. We can do this. It kept us going.”
The Warriors did get the first goal, a finish by Heather Plowright after a perfectly executed play started on a set piece by Ashley Carbonier, with the centering pass coming from Shelby Dejana.
That came in the 42nd minute, after a fairly even first half that ended scoreless because of Floyd.
The Tigers, who in a conventional season likely would have opened second to favored St. Joseph (which was upset today by Trumbull, 2-1) in an FCIAC preseason poll, picked up their game after falling behind.
That resulted in the blistering shot on the far side by Kemp off a corner kick. It was hit so hard Floyd had little time to react.
“She took it extremely well,” said Barry O’Reilly, who is coaching the team on the field this season because Iain Golding is in his native Scotland and has been unable to return. “We’ve seen her top it before. We are known as a second-half team and we got a better feel for the game. Once they scored a goal it was a wakeup call for us and we started playing a lot better. It was our first competitive game so there’s a lot to work on but hopefully we will be better next time around.”
Floyd had a few more saves left in her, including another on Arnold, who exhibited her ability to create space beating defenders, and she faced many when she got touches.
What Wilton is lacking in size it makes up for in quickness and intelligence. It is a skilled team that will hit the road for a rematch at Ridgefield on Tuesday. The teams are part of a strong regional pod that includes reigning FCIAC champion Staples.
“I thought the first 30 minutes were very good,” Topali said. “We had good control of the game. The last 10 minutes of the half we didn’t deal with pressure as well but managed to see it out. We got a good start in the first 10 minutes of the second half, got a quick goal and had a few more chances to potentially make it two or 3-nil and that woke them up. They’re a high-level team. They have a lot of character on that team and they fought hard.”
As for whether Floyd has the ability to surprise him anymore, when she is on the field you sort of have the same expectations as when you enter a movie theater and Meryl Streep’s name is on the marquee.
“Her standards are a little bit higher so we expect her to make the big saves,” Topali said. “We expect her to make the big plays. I think she expects it herself and that is why she’s at the level she’s at.”