Friday night Ridgefield beat Hockinson 2-1 in their first 2A League game.
The Spudders went into the half with a 2-0 lead after goals from defender Ethan Wirchak and Forward Steven Cunningham, but came out flat in the second half. They gave up a goal within minutes and the Hawks held onto the momentum but failed to convert an equalizer before time was up.
The Spudders posted a 2-2 preseason record. Their struggles in the second half on Friday is something Ridgefield head coach Brian Newman sees as an overall maturity problem, not skill, which is a simple reflection of how young his squad is.
“That’s just maturity — we’ve got to mature. … We have the skill, but not the knowledge,” he said of letting up on the gas after taking a two-goal lead. “They played a strong first half, but lost their composure.”
While a rebuilding year is common and understood at any level, and in any sport, the Spudders’ past successes loom heavy over a team that only has four returning varsity players. The Spudders have appeared in the last 10 state championships.
But Newman said they aren’t focused on stretching that streak to 11 quite yet. For now, they’re taking it one game at a time and focusing on galvanizing as team.
“They’re sticking to the plan that we’ve got and I think as we get later into the season we’re going to see those pieces coming together,” Newman said. “Our theme is serious fun. We practice serious then when we get to the game we get to have some fun.”
But Newman does have an idea of what it will take to get to 11 straight state appearances.
“We’ve gotta grow up real fast,” he said. “I think that’s probably the most important part to get back to state.”
To accomplish that, Newman is relying on his four returning varsity players to help in the building process. This could be seen at halftime of the last Friday’s game: the coaching staff addressed the team for about five minutes before the upperclassman took over. Three of them serve as the team’s captains.
“They know what it tastes like to go to state,” Newman said. “They know that we’ve been there 10 times straight and they know that what we’ve got as a team this year is probably the least synergistic that we’ve had over the years.”