NORWALK -- While the St. Joseph girls soccer team has to share the spotlight as FCIAC winners in 2012, with what it has leading the front line, the Cadets might not have to worry about such a unique circumstance in the future.
Having one of the brighter young stars in the county provides such an advantage.
Jenna Bike scored twice as the second-seeded Cadets were declared co-champions of the conference with a 3-1 win over Ridgefield on Tuesday evening at Norwalk High School. Greenwich won the other FCIAC game 1-0 over Trumbull at Norwalk.
"It's absolutely amazing," Bike said. "It means everything to this team, the feeling is incredible. It would have been great to play Greenwich or Trumbull, but this was technically the championship game for us. It's the same as winning the next game if we ever played."
Following the events of Hurricane Sandy, the FCIAC is declaring co-champions in four fall sports.
Bike, a sensational freshman, displayed her pace on both goals, outracing the Tigers defense to loose balls that were played over the top by her teammates, and displaying cool finishing by slotting the ball under Ridgefield goalie Kathryn Eckhoff.
"She's been solid all season long," St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueria said. "She's a big threat up top. In the second half, she took it upon herself; her off-the-ball movement was better and we gave her some better service."
After a gritty first half that saw both teams trying to break off their collective rust having not played in over a week, the game burst into life in the second as the tempo increased.
"The first half, you could see that both teams haven't played in 10 days," Nogueira said. "As the game went on, I think we got acclimated better and got our shape better."
However, it was the Tigers opening the scoring in the 51st minute, when Amy Reunert delivered a cross from out wide toward Amanda Berta, and the senior took one touch before firing a hard shot that went right into the bottom corner of the net.
"We always start slow, it took the halftime talk to really get us going," St. Joseph junior Sami Grasso said. "Even when (Ridgefield) scored, I just knew we would score too, and once we did, we just kept it going."
It didn't take the Cadets long to reply, equalizing three minutes later with Bike beating the Ridgefield defense to a ball that was played over the top of a counter attack. She secured the win with 14:34 to play from a similar position to the frustration of the Tigers.
"I was happy with how we played, I can't complain," Ridgefield coach Robb Banyaii said. "We just got beat by a good team. Realistically I think St. Joe's is the best team in the conference; when they are at full strength, they are as good as anyone."
Kate Danaher put the exclamation point on the victory with a thunderbolt free kick from nearly 35 yards out that went over the outstretched Eckhoff and into the net with under four minutes to play.
The Tigers, who rallied from 3-1 down to defeat Wilton in the quarterfinals to make it to Norwalk, will now shift their attention to the state tournament, which begins Friday with an expected visit from league rival Darien.
"I was thrilled," Banyaii said. "12-3-3 is a great year by any means, now we have to get ready for states. It will be difficult because you will see teams from your league, but we will be fine."
FCIAC girls soccer semifinal
RIDGEFIELD 0 1--1
ST. JOSEPH 0 3--3
Records: Ridgefield 12-3-3. St Joseph 14-2-2.
Goals: R--Amanda Berta. SJ--Jenna Bike (2), Kate Danaher. Assists: R--Amy Reunert. SJ--Danaher, Cori Scales. Goalies: R--Kathryn Eckhoff (2 saves); SJ--Molly Meehan (2)