Suffield girls stopped in semis

By Danny Atkinson

MIDDLETOWN-The Suffield girls soccer team experienced a tough ending to one of the program’s greatest season’s Thursday night, losing 3-0 to Ridgefield in the semifinals of the Class LL Tournament Wednesdy.

The second-seeded Wildcats allowed two goals in the opening 23 minutes, and were unable to break through on offense against the Tigers aggressive defense. Ridgefield scored its final goal with just under eight minutes remaining in the game.

The loss was Suffield’s first of the season, as it ends 19-1. Ridgefield is now 21-2 and will face Glastonbury in Saturday’s championship game.

Wildcats head coach David Sullivan said his team being unable to convert scoring opportunities in the opening few minutes made a big difference in how the game played out. 

“In the first 15 minutes we had them on their heels a little bit but they never broke,” he said. “They have four seniors in the back (of the defense) and you can tell, and their team experience helps their composure. We had a lot of speed coming at them but they didn’t break down.”

In the game’s opening minutes, Suffield did control possession a majority of time and had the Tigers defenders scrambling. However, the Wildcats were ultimately unable to obtain open shots close to the goal, with the after mentioned experienced defenders doing an efficient job of blocking and altering shots and passes. The one shot on goal the team did obtain was easily stopped by netminder Julia Gerber.

As the game got deeper into the first half, the Ridgefield offense began to assert itself and scored on two highly similar plays. The first goal came was scored by star forward Katherine Jasminski with20:15 left in the half. The Tigers obtained the ball at midfield and pushed it quickly down the left sideline as the Suffield defenders tried valiantly to keep up. The ball made its way to Jasminski, who fired a shot past goalie Jessica Cunningham and into the far right of the net.

Ridgefield’s second goal was scored just 2:22 later. After taking possession, it again advanced the ball downfield quickly and obtained an open shot along the left sideline, with Natalie Brassigna putting it past Cunningham to make it 2-0.

“The two times Jasminski was able to get the ball and turn and go at us, they were able to get scores,” Sullivan said. “She is one of the best ball dribblers with speed I’ve seen in a long time. When they scored on those two crosses it changed the momentum of the game. We had them on the ropes a little bit until the first goal came.”

Both defenses played well in the final minutes of the first half, as defenders were able to limit the movement of players and regularly block passes and shots. Neither team obtain any good shots on goal.

“They’re were points throughout the game where Ridgefield had five defenders back, and that allowed them to shut down open gaps and made it more difficult for us to move the ball,” juniorAlyssa Bergamini said.  

In the second half, Suffield arguably outplayed Ridgefield and obtained more scoring opportunities, but continued to be unable to break through and make a comeback. The defense continued to play highly efficiently, cutting off gaps and forcing the Tigers players into difficult passes which led to short possessions. Meanwhile, the Wildcats offense successfully moved the ball downfield more, largely thanks to more accurate passing and better spacing.

Suffield consistently set up scoring opportunities throughout the half, but was unable to convert for a variety of reasons, starting with Ridgefield’s stalwart defense. The Tigers blocked a handful of passes and shots in front of and adjacent to the goal. In addition, the Wildcats hit a few shots wide of the goal and Gerber made multiple saves.

Molly Nethercott scored Ridgefield’s final goal with 7:54 remaining in the game, sneaking the ball past Cunningham amid a crowd of players. Claire Middlebrook earned an assist on the goal.

“I think we outplayed them in the second half and held them to just one opportunity,” Sullivan said. “We made defensive adjustments at halftime that slowed them down. Their speed and composure just made a big difference.”

“They are one of the best defenses we’ve seen,” his daughter McKenzie said. “We still had just as many if not more scoring opportunities then they did though.”

This was the fourth consecutive season in which Suffield advanced to at least the tournament semifinals. The program lost in the Class L final last year to St. Joseph.

Sullivan and Alexis Bergamini discussed what made this year’s Wildcat squad special.

“They were a great group of kids and I had a lot of fun with them,” Sullivan said. “They improved and I am proud of the effort they gave. In each game they gave 100 percent.”

“I think we had strong leadership this season with our three captains,” Alexis said. “We consistently played hard and gave a lot of effort.”

Suffield should again be a top contender again next season, as it returns eight starters. Its coach is certainly confident it can be.

“With the talent we have returning I definitely think we can be back,” he said.

 

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