STAMFORD — The scene in front of the Ridgefield bench late Saturday afternoon looked like the type of footage usually captured by NFL Films as Liane Keegans spent several minutes unwinding tape from different areas of her body.
Keegans, the Tigers’ spectacular defender, then listed off her injuries almost as if they were a badge of distinction. Sprained ankle. Strained hip flexor. Strained abductor muscle.
Keegans might have been best suited for hours on a trainer’s table, but you never would have known it during the previous 80 minutes, as she spearheaded a defensive unit that was superb in a 2-0 win over Westhill in the quarterfinal round of the FCIAC girls soccer tournament.
“We’ve really been focusing on staying tight in the back and communicating,” Keegans said. “We have a really young team this year. We’ve been able to stay together. It’s worked.”
Westhill (11-4-2), the No. 3 seed, was in trouble when the Tigers (11-3-3) scored twice in the first 17 minutes. They have conceded just six goals all season, and more than one in a game just once, a 2-1 loss to top-seeded St. Joseph.
“It’s been sensational all season,” said Ridgefield coach Alex Harrison. “When we can defend like that as a unit, we’re going to be in every game we play. It was going to be a tight game. Even the scoreline, I thought it was closer than 2-0.”
Westhill entered 10-0 when both Jess Laszlo and Heidi Druehl have been on the field together, and Druehl returned to regular action after sustaining a sprained ankle last week.
Laszlo and Druehl are both headed to UConn — where they will be teammates with Keegans. Westhill coach Dave Flower moved Druehl up from the back line for a good part of the second half, teaming with Chelsea Domond to give the Vikings three dangerous goal scorers.
And while Westhill’s work rate was exemplary, there were few good scoring chances as the Tigers’ defense was up to the challenge.
“You can’t afford to give them any space or they’ll punish you,” Harrison said. “Credit to our defensive unit. We defend from the front to the back. Our forwards are involved in our defensive unit. The midfield as well, especially on the sides. The back four have been great and the goalkeeping sensational.”
Asked what the strategy was, Keegans said, “You have to stay tight, pressure them high and don’t let them turn and go to goal.”
Ridgefield dominated the first 20 minutes, and that was ultimately when the contest was decided. In the 10th minute, Alyssa Bonanno, whose late penalty kick salvaged a 1-1 tie when the teams met on the same field five days earlier, put a corner kick toward the far post. A Westhill defender got her head on it but the ball went back and landed in the net.
Ridgefield doubled its lead in the 17th minute, with Katie Jasminski getting free in the defense for the score.
“It was great because we’ve struggled all season getting out to a lead,” Harrison said. “We’ve been in every single game.”
From there the play was tightly contested. The Vikings did everything but finish.
“You have to give them all the credit,” Flower said. “We worked as hard as we could and I don’t think we did anything particularly wrong. I thought they were a very good team. They didn’t allow us back in the game. They deserved it. We have a few days to get healthy and try to have a good run in states. It has been a fantastic season. We’ve exceeded expectations.”