Girls soccer: Ridgefield nips Wilton 2-1

The Wilton girls soccer team battled Ridgefield until the final whistle, but it was the Tigers who came away with the 2-1 win Tuesday at Kristine Lilly Field and continued their recent dominance over the Warriors.

With the win, Ridgefield remains perfect on the season at 8-0, while the loss drops Wilton to 6-2-1. It was the Warriors’ first defeat in eight games.

If you had to pay to get into today’s game, you would have gotten your money’s worth, as the two teams played a very entertaining match, full of action the entire game.

As in their last two games, both on the road, the Warriors got off to a slow start. Ridgefield possessed the ball for the first 11 minutes of the game and kept the ball in the Wilton defensive end of the field. The Warriors didn’t have one rush up the field during that time.

In the 13th minute of play, the Warriors had their first real chance deep in the Ridgefield zone and they capitalized in on it. Senior co-captain Ashley Vitarelli lofted a perfect corner kick right to the goal mouth, where it found Andrea Benalcazar waiting for the ball. Benalcazar put her head on it with just the right angle and put it in the net for the 1-0 Wilton lead.

The Tigers, not to be outdone by the home team, tied the game 1-1 off their own corner kick in the 20th minute. Alyssa Bonanno played her kick in front of the Warrior goal and after the Warriors failed to clear it out of danger, Alexandra Damron drove home for the score.

Ridgefield took the lead in the 29th minute, this time off a set play on a direct kick just outside the goal box. Damron took the direct kick and went short with it to Grace Franklin, who was unmarked to the right of Damron. Franklin went high with her shot and she found the far corner open for the goal.

The Warriors worked hard for 80 minutes, but it was clear why the Tigers are now 8-0 on the season. They were a step quicker to the ball, winning almost every free ball, even on the Warriors’ kicks and throw-ins. And they are very dangerous on their corners and direct kicks, as they created quality scoring chances off each.

“They came out strong and fast like we had expected and we tried our best,” said Vitarelli. “They beat us today on their set plays (corner kicks), which is something we practice for, but they just executed them perfectly. We of course wanted to get the win against our rival school, but hopefully the loss will help motivate us and turn it into something positive for the future.” Vitarelli also commented on first-year head coach Renato Topalli and his staff.

“It’s so much different this year, the coaching makes you want to play better and work hard to achieve our goals. They keep us motivated and bring a positive attitude to the practices and games. They support us and show us what we did wrong or what you could do better and do it in a teaching manner.”

Wilton came out in the second half and upped its play and eliminated first-half issues that were discussed at halftime.

In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Benalcazar popped a nice through ball to Lindsay Groves, as she had the angle on her defender. With the Tigers’ defense quick to react, Groves took the only shot she had, which was to go high with her shot, but arc on her shot attempt was just high.

Wilton goalie Taylor Floyd, who was again solid between the pipes for the Warriors, had to defend off four consecutive corner-kick shot attempts by the Tigers to keep the Wilton deficit at one goal.

The game’s action went right down to the final whistle, with Wilton getting one last chance at the tying goal in the final two minutes of the game.

“The team gave a great effort as they have all season and never stopped fighting,” said Topalli. “They just outworked us tonight. Their speed on the front line opens up the field and caused us to shuffle the lineup a little to see what worked best. I told the team to hold their heads up high. They played hard and battled one of the top teams in the conference. The team wasn’t happy getting beat and I told them remember that if you see them later in the season.”