TRUMBULL — Caitlin Slaminko on most days would have been getting ready to celebrate a multi-goal performance. Instead, the Ridgefield girls soccer team’s explosive forward was on the verge of getting shut out this afternoon, robbed four times by Trumbull goalkeeper Avery Rice.
The Tigers’ midfielders had done a sensational job of playing through balls, and finally, in the 79th minute, Slaminko broke through. She took a pass from Megan Klosowski, beat two defenders and drilled a shot off of Rice to put the finishing touch on a decisive 3-0 win.
“Their defenders were playing really hard on my back and it took us a while to figure out how to get around them,” Slaminko said. “We started playing out wide, which helped a lot, and our people out wide played amazing, beating their defenders that way. It took a while to start getting momentum.”
Defense has been the trademark of the program in recent years, and was the key component in winning last year’s FCIAC title and the past two Class LL championships. Today was an indicator that this could be the Tigers’ most explosive offense in a while.
“It’s a different team this year in that we’re looking to feet and ball more,” Slaminko said. “I think last year was more a kick and run thing. I think that’s a huge difference this year.”
Slaminko is playing a new position, one that is both suited to her natural ability but also allows her to create when there are seemingly no opportunities.
“I’ve always been a center midfielder but going up top was a huge adjustment, getting balls kicked at your feet or going through,” Slaminko said. “This style of play I like better.”
Slaminko might be the best known of Ridgefield’s players, but despite changes the talent runs deep. Coach Iain Golding started a lineup with just four seniors, and a freshman, Charlotte Kemp, at center back.
Megan Klosowski, Faith Arnold and Eva McKinley at midfield are stellar getting the ball to the forwards in space. Arnold set up Tasha Riek’s goal in the 20th minute, which followed by a minute Riek getting the assist for a Julia Bragg finish.
The Tigers (3-0) continued to press the attack though they were blanked until the finish.
“I thought the girls played well,” Golding said. “Trumbull in the first half was really physical and really aggressive and you have to give them a lot of credit because they shut us down. We kept grinding and grinding and in the second half we competed a little bit better and matched them physically. I’m just proud the girls showed good character, and we haven’t conceded so it was a good one.”
Riek and Bragg were particularly effective today, while the defense stood firm the few times it was tested.
Slaminko now has four goals this year.
“It’s much more fun for me because I’ve always liked getting the ball on my feet or being able to get to the ball,” Slaminko said.
Trumbull is now 1-2, a record not indicative of the strides being made for what once was for a time the state’s premier program. The Eagles have benefited from the addition of St. Joseph transfer Sophia Lowenburg, who saw the ball infrequently because Ridgefield dominated possession time.
Trumbull’s defense did a good job of keeping the score manageable.
“They are very quick, organized,” Trumbull Rich Sutherland said of Ridgefield. “They broke us down and we got caught up in the moment. They’re a very good team. They are good across the field, they’ve got good depth.”
Trumbull won 10 games two years ago and 11 last season.
“We have a long way to go,” Sutherland said. “It’s the start of a long season. It takes a little bit of time to mold it and we are still trying to find our feet a little bit. We’re still trying to find the right positions for some players. We’re probably a couple of weeks behind schedule than we’d like to be but we’ll get there and hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Ridgefield has turned out a wealth of talent over the past five years, and it looks as if Golding again has a lot of quality pieces to move around.
“It is still early in the season so for us to be 3-0 and having not conceded, obviously I’m very happy with the start we’ve made,” Golding said. “We still have a hard, difficult run to come.”