RIDGEFIELD -- The Ridgefield boys lacrosse team's defense, referred to by coach Roy Colsey as the team's backbone, was that and more when the Tigers played host to Warde Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Class L state tournament.
The Tigers permitted just one Warde goal over the final 29 minutes, preventing any hopes of a Mustang rally and giving Ridgefield a 9-4 victory.
"The defense was good and they needed to be," Colsey said. "We recognized that this team is driven by the defense. Our offense is our younger core group, but our defensive guys are a big piece of our motivation and setting the tone for the rest of the team."
Ridgefield's win sets up an all-FCIAC semifinal clash between the Tigers and Greenwich for their third meeting this season.
Greenwich has thus far gotten the best of Ridgefield, albeit by the slimmest of margins: An 8-7 quadruple-overtime, regular-season, win on April 15 and a 7-6 overtime victory on May 27 in the FCIAC semifinals.
"We have a lot of respect for them," Colsey said of the Cardinals, who beat Fairfield Prep 9-8 on Saturday. "I give them a lot of credit for beating us twice. We went to the wire twice and they found a way to win. Generally, it's us and Greenwich and Prep, and here we are again."
A hot start by both goalies resulted in a low-scoring first quarter, as Ridgefield's Brendan Winne and Warde's Jason Nerreau were on point from the opening faceoff, combining to make six saves before the game's first goal.
That score came courtesy of Ridgefield's Dylan Maher, who notched his first of two markers with a hard, high shot just underneath the crossbar.
"It was a great came. We were fired up to come out here," Maher said. "We wanted to prove a point and make ourselves known in the state tournament. We're excited to move on."
With time dwindling in the opening quarter, Warde's Kyle Scheetz notched his first of two goals by firing a pinpoint, long-distance shot with just 11 seconds left in the stanza.
The Mustangs claimed their first lead with a goal from Kevin Robinson midway through the second quarter, but the 3-2 edge turned out to be the final lead of Warde's season.
"Our guys showed what they were capable of doing," Warde coach Tom Cunningham said. "We competed with them. It's a great team across the field that we were facing, but we gave them a fight for the first half and we stayed in it for the rest of the game."
After assisting on his team's second goal, Ridgefield's Will Bonaparte drew his team even with 4:30 to go in the half, and Chad Krys and Ryan Dunn followed that up with goals of their own for the 5-3 halftime advantage.
On Dunn's second goal, which was assisted by Simon Mathias, the junior received a pass and scored despite shooting while falling in front of the Warde net.
Bonaparte accounted for the only goal of the third quarter to give his Tigers a 6-3 lead.
Despite being shutout for the entire third quarter and 17 minutes overall, Warde required just 20 seconds of fourth quarter action to cut Ridgefield's lead to 6-4 when Michael Adams buried a long-range shot after receiving a pass from Jake Fuss.
"I'm proud of every one of those guys, proud of those seniors," Cunningham said. "They came along together for four years with a lot of them playing at the varsity level for four years. They gave me everything they had and they made this season a great season."
As for the Tigers, they're hoping that the third time is the charm against Greenwich.
"We're so pumped," Maher said. "We want to redeem ourselves and go out there on fire. We've got to keep pushing."
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Ridgefield 9, Warde 4
WARDE 1 2 0 1 -- 4
RIDGEFIELD 1 4 1 3 -- 9
Records: Warde 12-6; Ridgefield 15-3.
Scoring: W -- Kyle Scheetz 2g; Kevin Robinson 1g; Michael Adams 1g; Jake Fuss 1a; R -- Dylan Maher 2g, 1a; Will Bonaparte 3g, 1a; Ryan Dunn 2g; Chad Krys 1g; Martin Carbone 1g; Simon Mathias 1a; Nicholas Esemplare 1a; Chase Levesque 1a. Goalies: W -- Jason Nerreau (10 saves); R -- Brendan Winne (4 saves); Adam Karashik (0 saves). Shots: W -- 14; R -- 38.