The Ridge High School girls soccer team traveled to Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School Tuesday afternoon for the final game to defend their North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 championship. After 80 minutes of regular time and two 10-minute overtimes, it all came down to penalty kicks to decide the winner.1st 2nd OT1 OT2 PK Ridge (15-4-5) 0 0 0 0 4 Scotch Plains-Fanwood (18-2-3) 0 0 0 0 3
It was no surprise that the New Jersey North 2, Group 2 sectional final would come down to penalty kicks to decide the victor. Both teams are known for their stingy defenses, each giving up only 10 total goals for the entire season to some of New Jersey's finest competition.
"We switched some things around today to neutralize their threat and based on what we learned in the Watchung Hills game," said Ridge coach Katie Donahue. "They were so dangerous on corner kicks that we said the only way we would stop them is not to allow corner kicks."
The first half was clearly dominated by Ridge and opportunities came and went. The second half, Scotch Plains-Fanwood clearly had the upper hand. "We didn't have as many chances as them in the second half, they had a few that were just inches away," said Donahue.
"I say it all the time, soccer is a cruel sport some times, today we were just lucky they didn't put one of those in."
The overtime periods were a little bit of everything and a very late chance opportunity by SPF showed off the talents of Ridge goalie, Rachel Axt, who has sent many rival teams heading home without even one goal during this season
"Rachel Axt came up huge for us." said Donahue, "Late in the game, I say we can't just rely on her to make those kind of saves, but she showed up again and made some incredible saves."
When the decision went to penalty kicks, an unusual call tilted the scales in Ridge's favor. When Alex Weyrauch came up to take her shot, the score was 1-1. Alex took her shot and SPF goalie Taylor Sebalao made what looked like an easy save. That is when the referee called Sebalao for entering the penalty box before Weyrauch kicked the ball.
That call gave Weyrauch a second opportunity — Weyrauch took full advantage of that opportunity and she scored easily.
"PKs are no way to measure the team to go on, but one team must advance, it is a tie, and we are happy to win the sectional," said Donahue.
"When you have two teams that pride themselves on shutting other teams out, of course it is going to go to PKs. We are very similar on paper with some different formations," said Donahue. "I am very proud of how the girls shut them out. I am glad they got this win and they got to defend their sectional."
"This is awesome," said Ridge goalie Rachel Axt, "I am very relieved, very happy. Speechless."
Ridge will now play for the Group 4 North state title and faces Montclair Tuesday, at 5 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 5 p.m. at a neutral site, Somerville.