Borden’s Baller of the Year
Greg Tufaro, @GregTufaro
RARITAN TWP. – After a flurry of chances with time running out in the second overtime, the Hunterdon Central High School girls soccer team finally found a way to win.
With 3:46 remaining, Hunterdon Central’s Ciara Adams scored off a corner kick to lead the top-seeded Red Devils over second-seeded Old Bridge to their third NJSIAA Central Group IV title and first since 2016. It was a 2-1 victory in double overtime.
“I remember the ball was somewhere in the six, it was bouncing back and forth and it came to my feet, and I just did anything I could to get it in the back of the net,” Adams said. “It’s amazing, everybody was working so hard throughout the whole entire game. We all had the energy, we all knew we could do it.”
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Hunterdon Central (19-3-1) scored its first goal on a penalty kick by Kylie Roesler with 4:46 remaining in the first half. Both teams had opportunities to score, and Old Bridge capitalized on one with 21:17 left in the game.
The Knights (15-3-2) were awarded a corner kick, which was sent into a scrum in front of the net. Goalie Ava Gillikin came out of goal to make an initial save, and a heads up play by a Hunterdon Central player sent the ball back into play, where Samantha Brown was waiting to tie it up 1-1.
“The expectation in terms of just our play was we knew they were a really tough physical team, we knew we had to play quick, one-two touch possession and we knew they were super tough to score on,” Hunterdon Central coach Jeannine Calhoun said. “So we knew that we were going to have to take advantage of set pieces, I think all three goals were scored on set pieces, theirs too. So the expectation is always we come in believing we can win, but you need to play the game to make that happen.”
As time wound down in regulation, sophomore Emily Mason took a number of shots on goal, one of which hit the crossbar and two were saved by Old Bridge keeper Chelsea Lee-Sam, who finished with 11 saves.
The Red Devils dominated the first overtime, holding Old Bridge without a shot on net. The second overtime was more of the same, and the game eventually went the way of Hunterdon Central.
“I thought their keeper was absolutely tremendous, lights out, she made it super difficult for us,” Calhoun said of Lee-Sam. “We had a lot of opportunities, some bad bounces, but ultimately to come up with a goal in double overtime is much preferred to a PK shootout.”
Friday’s game was the first time that the Red Devils had conceded a goal during their sectional playoff run, having outscored opponents 10-0 in its previous four games. Hunterdon Central outshot Old Bridge 14-4, with Gillikin recording two saves.
Old Bridge had posted 13 shutouts in its last 14 games and had allowed only five goals all season, which ends with the Knights finishing as Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinalists
“Coming in we knew that they were going to be a good team, they were going to be fighting really hard but we thought we could fight even harder,” Adams said. “We knew we had the technical skills, we just left everything out on the field.”
The Red Devils now begin their quest for a Group IV title to match the one they won in 2016. Hunterdon Central will face Eastern at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Rowan University. The Group IV final is set for Nov. 18 at Kean University.
“I think we’re just going to keep playing the way we have been, we know how we can play, we’re just going to keep fighting as hard as we can and I think if we can do that, we’ll do great,” Adams said.
SECTIONAL FINAL ROUNDUP
Central Group II
Governor Livingston 2, Matawan 1: Kaylee Vreeland led with one goal and one assist as third-seeded Governor Livingston (19-4) defeated No. 8 Matawan (11-9-2). Allie Post also scored and Sarah Foy made six saves. Governor Livingston will face Delsea in the Group II semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Hopewell Valley.
South Non-Public A
Pingry 3, Red Bank Catholic 1: Alexandra Weber scored twice to pace sixth-seeded Pingry (14-6-1) over top-seeded Red Bank Catholic (16-4) on Thursday night. Leah Mangold also scored. Pingry will face Oak Knoll in the Non-Public A final at 3 p.m. Sunday at Kean University.
Staff Writer Lauren Knego: email@example.com; on Twitter: @laurenknego