Fairfield Ludlowe survived three excellent chances by Ridgefield to break a halftime tie early in the second half Monday night at Taft Field, then broke the Tigers' defense for a pair of quick-strike goals to earn a 3-1 win in an FCIAC boys soccer game in Fairfield.
The Falcons' victory gave them a four-game winning, which has been a rare occurrence in Kevin O'Hara's 10 years as their coach. They improved to 4-1-0 overall and in the FCIAC. For Ridgefield, the match snapped a four-game unbeaten streak at the season's start as the Tigers dropped to 2-1-2 overall and in the conference.
Ridgefield held an advantage in possession and territorial play and the Tigers outshot the Falcons by 16-6, but Ludlowe was much more opportunistic with its limited chances.
When Ridgefield's defense made a rare mistake, Ludlowe was there to pounce.
"For the first time in a while here, we have a deep bench," O'Hara said.
"The underclassmen are really pushing the seniors for playing time. Every chance I get, I get them into the game. We are seven or eight deep this year; most years we're usually three or four deep."
Being free with subsititutions left Ludlowe fresher as the second half wore on.
Minutes after getting past Ridgefield's initial charge in the second half, junior Matt Doyle gave the Falcons' a 2-1 lead when he took a pass from senior Eric Winjum. Doyle, then got to his own rebound before Tigers' goalkeeper Nicholas Steer could recover and make another save.
Ridgefield pressed for the equalizing goal, but Falcons' sophomore goalie Frederick Meagher collected a number of his 12 saves for the game during that stretch.
And as the Tigers' failed to mount another high quality chance to score, Ludlowe countered again for the insurance goal.
Jason Fromme accepted a pass from fellow senior Billy Donatuti and shot the ball into the goal as Steer approached. Meagher and his defenders held on from there despite increasing pressure by Ridgefield.
"What it comes down to is we didn't capitalize," said Tigers' coach Phil Bergen, who noted how his fewer substitutions might have left his club not as energetic in its attempt to rally.
"They're excellent, they played a disciplined game and played it simple. I anticipate that we'll see them later in the year (in the FCIAC tournament). Our defense couldn't have played much better. We just created and wasted a lot of opportunities."
Ludlowe has allowed one goal in its four-game win streak. That was Adam Findlay's volley from Killian Clancy at 32:09 of the first half Monday, which was in response to sophomore Tulio Almeida's goal on a pass from junior Alec Georgiadis in the 14th minute of the first half for a 1-0 Falcons' lead.
"Every game has been a challenge for us to play better, and we have each time," O'Hara said.
"This was a top challenge tonight." The Falcons' confidence and comfort with playing among each other and within the style of play stressed by O'Hara has been growing as well.
There are plenty of signs the team is coming together nicely -- four-game winning streaks send that kind of message to opponents.
"We've had good teams most years here," he said, "but we haven't had a real strong year. I'm very happy with how we've been playing."
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Fairfield Ludlowe 3, Ridgefield 1
RIDGEFIELD 1 0--1
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 1 2--3
Records: Ridgefield 2-1-2, 2-1-2 FCIAC; Fairfield Ludlowe 4-1-0, 4-1-0 FCIAC. Goals: R--Adam Findlay; FL--Tulio Almeida, Matt Doyle, Jason Fromme. Assists: R--Killian Clancy; FL--Alec Georgiadis, Eric Winjum, Billy Donatuti. Goalies: R--Nicholas Steer (3 saves); FL--Frederick Meagher (12 saves). Shots: R--16; FL--6.