RIDGEFIELD — To even the more-than-casual girls soccer observer, the news that Alex Damron scored a hat trick in Ridgefield’s 3-1 semifinal win over New Canaan in the Class LL semifinal might have sparked a simple question.
Who is Alex Damron?
The avid fan might be aware of Damron, one of a stable of underrated juniors who are helping to carry the Tigers to unprecedented heights. But outside of Katie Jasminski, who has scored 22 goals, many of the team’s best players have excelled in relative anonymity.
And this is not an insult but rather perhaps the best indicator of what has helped Ridgefield win the FCIAC title and brought it to the precipice of its first state title. The Tigers put 11 solid players on the field, so rarely does a single one stand out. That is their greatest strength. On any night, one player can have what can now be called a “Damron moment.”
“This season has been a chance for everyone to step up at different times,” said Ridgefield coach Alex Harrison. “Is it going to be Katie every time? No, I would hope not with all the talent we have.”
The Tigers, who are appearing in just their second state final — the first was 33 years ago — are going to again need all hands on deck on Saturday when they face top-seeded Glastonbury for the Class LL title. The Tomahawks are undefeated, the defending champions and playing in their fifth championship in the last seven seasons.
If that appears a daunting task, the Ridgefield players need only to think back two weeks, when they went up against unbeaten and heavily favored St. Joseph and won the FCIAC title.
“We got to the finals in the FCIACs; to get to the state finals is a really great accomplishment,” Jasminski said. “We work together well as a team and we want to keep it going to stay together as long as possible. We get along together really well.”
Outside of Ridgefield, the Tigers’ performance might be a modest wonder. The only returning player who received any All-FCIAC recognition last year was Alyssa Bonanno, an honorable mention selection who has had a sensational season. In contrast, the Cadets played with four decorated first team players. Fairfield Warde had three.
“Some of these seniors and juniors have been on the team from the get-go, since they were freshmen, and they proved they could play back then,” Harrison said. “I’m not surprised at all that any of them are stepping up.”
The best example of what makes the Tigers click may have come on Monday night. New Canaan closely marked Jasminski, allowing her virtually no room to turn with the ball. A selfish player would have forced the action and turned the ball over. Instead, Jasminski adapted and ended up assisting on each of Damson’s goals.
“Katie couldn’t get the shots off that she would have liked, but she got the serves off,” Harrison said.
Molly Nethercott, a clever two-way player, said she has noticed a marked maturity in the team from a year ago, when it made a postseason run that was stopped in the state semifinals.
“This year we have been more connected and there’s been more team chemistry,” Nethercott said. “A lot of people stepped up this year and filled positions we were lacking last year. A bunch of people started last year and we got the gist of everything to do it even better this year.”
Ridgefield was noticeably loose prior to the FCIAC final, something that St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira pointed out to Harrison during warmups. Will the Tigers have that same mindset on Saturday?
“There’s always nerves, but if you are able to turn that into something positive and get energy, that’s when you play really well,” Jasminski said.
Harrison said like the remaining state finalists in all sports, his team is tired. But win or lose in the final, there will be a void to fill Sunday morning.
“This is a grind,” Harrison said. “The amount of games that we are playing in a short period. It’s the same for every team, but it’s game, game, game, with little practicing in between. But I love these kids. I’m so proud of all of them. They make it worth coming to practices, and I’m their No. 1 supporter. I know that sounds funny being their coach, but it’s true.”