Bike accepts delivery on title

“In a game like this you have to anticipate,” St. Joseph High’s Jenna Bike said after she scored two goals to earn FCIAC girls soccer tourney MVP honors after the Cadets defeated Ridgefield High, 3-1, for a share of the conference championship at Testa Field in Norwalk on Tuesday.

“The hardest worker will get you the goal, and our midfielders had a good battle and were real good at delivering the ball.”

Coach Jack Nogueria’s second-seeded Cadets rallied from a one-goal deficit to claim a piece of the title with Greenwich High, which upended Trumbull 1-0 in the second semi.

Due to Hurricane Sandy, the conference tournaments were shortened to quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, with the final two teams standing sharing the title.

“The first half, you could see that both teams haven’t played in ten days,” Nogueria said after his club improved to 14-2-2. “As the game went on, I think we acclimated better and our shape got better.”

The middies for Ridgefield (12-3-3) and St. Joseph matched up well, and the Cadets’ Kate Danaher, Sylvia Yanez, Leah Lewis, Julia Marino, Marissa Grasso and Samantha Lello never gave an inch.

“Coach told us to watch our for their midfield because it was their strongest point,” Danaher said after raising the championship trophy along with fellow co-captain Yanez.

“We played much better overall in the second half and were finally able to get Jenna on a couple of runs.”

Yanez said: “This win is amazing. Since freshman year I knew this was a big deal. Last year, I injured my knee and missed it.

“Coach told us at the half to stay calm and play how we know how to play.”

Despite some ankle-breaking moves from the Cadets’ Sammi Grasso, who had some in the stands calling the outstanding junior “Hurricane Sammi,” the game went into the half scoreless.

St. Joseph’s defense of Rachel Barroso, Alex Waizenegger, Sabrina Toole and Cori Scales was stout in front of the active Molly Meehan in goal. Meehan came off her line perfectly to get to through balls, as the drama unfolded. Bike, meanwhile, the Cadets’ freshman forward, played a cat-and-mouse game with the tightly-marking Tiger defenders.

“I was looking for something to break in the first half, but they stopped every ball,” Bike said. “With the way our midfield was playing, I knew it was only a matter of time.”

Ridgefield’s Amanda Berta gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute off a cross from Amy Reunert.

Meehan had no chance in net to stop the rocket into the lower right corner.

Bike’s first attempt at a counter was thwarted at 51:08 when she was one stride short of reaching a chip pass from the hard-working Marino.

Ridgefield responded with a long ball to Berta, but Meehan made a sprawling stop at the feet of the Tigers’ senior sharpshooter.

Waizenegger made a well-placed pass over the top to Bike, and this time the jet-fast frosh beat Ridgefield keeper Kathryn Eckert to the spot and scored with 27:35 remaining.

“She’s been solid all season,” Nogueria said of Bike. “She’s a big threat up top. In the second half she took it upon herself; her off-the-ball movement was much better and we gave her some better service.”

It was Marino ringing the bell for the go-ahead goal, with Waizenegger starting the sequence with a good play in the back.

Bike took Marino’s no-hesitation pass up the middle and tallied with a one-timer for a 2-1 Cadet lead with 14:34 left to play.

Grasso drew a foul from 35 yards out and Danaher, who had a free kick stopped by Eckhoff in the 57th minutes, boomed a shot off the Tiger goalie’s finger tips to secure the win with 3:52 left.