When starting goalkeeper Kelly Chittenden was forced from a big game against Staples last November with a possible concussion, and the Ridgefield girls soccer team trying to preserve a lead in the final minutes, the Tigers put their best player, Faith Arnold, in net.
When Chittenden’s replacement was assessed a red card for touching a ball outside the box five days later in a regional semifinal game against Wilton, Arnold again found herself in goal, making the deciding save when the game went to penalty kicks.
The movement of a player who would end up earning All-New England honors was symbolic of Arnold’s career so far at Ridgefield: athletic and versatile enough to use at any position in her chosen sports, knowing she would make a vital contribution.
A championship rematch with Staples was canceled because of a Covid breakout. A decision had not been made where Arnold, a senior, would have been used if the game had been played.
“It was obviously a very crazy season and the end of it was super disappointing because we were all so excited,” Arnold said. “I thought it was going to be an exciting game. I was so proud of the entire team. With everything going on we were able to have some success.”
Arnold tends to use the word super often for emphasis, ironic because that is the same adjective she gets tagged with, by teammates, coaches and even opposing coaches.
And now the Ridgefield girls basketball team has a super addition to its lineup. Arnold, who sat out last season to concentrate on lacrosse, has come back to help bolster the defending FCIAC champion.
Arnold made the decision just days before practice started last week, for a confluence of reasons.
“It was a combo in that Katie and her mom were trying to get me to play,” said Arnold, referring to Katie Flynn, a team captain and close friend. “And then losing last lacrosse season, I figured why not do another team sport before high school is over. I also heard good things about Coach Coloney. It was just the combo of a lot of stuff.”
Rob Coloney, the former head coach at Wilton before moving out of the area for a year, took over the Tigers a year ago and led a postseason surge. The Tigers won the league title as the seventh seed, taking out the top three seeds in the process.
He saw tape of Arnold, who was a valuable player as a sophomore and played a key role in an FCIAC Tournament quarterfinal upset of Trumbull.
“This offseason there had been some conversations that Faith might be interested, and I knew she was super close with Katie Flynn,” Coloney said. “Faith reached out to me right before tryouts and we’re happy that she did. She’s done a really nice job so far.”
Arnold said Ridgefield’s success last season did not influence her decision. One factor that did: Arnold no longer has prioritized trying to play lacrosse in college. She is looking at schools in Colorado and California and hopes to either try to walk on or play at the club level.
Arnold’s humility was apparent when she discussed what she hopes to contribute this winter to the Tigers, who lost leading scorer Kate Wagner and several other key seniors but has a solid returning nucleus.
“It’s been really fun,” Arnold said. “A lot more fun than I expected honestly. It has been a punch to the face because I’m not in basketball shape at all yet. I’ve been doing a lot of heavy breathing. I’m definitely very rusty so we will see how much I am adding to the team. I hope I will help with the morale, cheer everyone on and help with the competition in practice.”
Reading between the lines, Coloney is expecting more than a smiling face on the bench. One observation beckons back to the end of soccer season.
“Faith is a really dynamic athlete from what I can tell,” Coloney said. “She seems to be able to grasp multiple positions just in the infancy of our season so far. I think she will be very valuable. If you think about how challenging it is to take a year off from anything and then get thrown back into the fire. Not only from a basketball shape perspective. She’s an athlete so she fits right in and has been a welcome addition to our practices.”
The girls soccer team won one league and two state titles during Arnold’s tenure. She said her biggest disappointment was losing last lacrosse season due to the pandemic.
“I feel like it’s the most fun sport to play. It was definitely super frustrating, especially with the seniors and Caitlin,” said Arnold, referring to Caitlin Slaminko, a close friend who also was a key contributor to the soccer program. “That was going to be my last season with her. Seeing them all leave — and I felt we had so much potential last year — was super disappointing.”
After basketball Arnold is hoping for one final full season of lacrosse. Wherever the road takes her next, it would be hard to believe she will be leaving her stick and cleats at home.
“Hopefully something will work out walking on or club because it would be so weird not to have that aspect of my life,” Arnold said.