FRANKLIN LAKES -- They were there in 2002 and lost. They were back in 2003, but came up short. Last year, they thought the third time would be a charm, but were turned back again.
On Sunday afternoon, Immaculate Heart Academy’s girls soccer team finally got back over the hump. The Blue Eagles conquered the semifinal round of the Bergen County tournament, though it took overtime and penalty kicks to get the job done.
When Brianne McDonough’s blast into the lower right corner just eluded River Dell goalkeeper Emily Mino’s diving reach, the Eagles had a 2-1 victory after winning the penalty kick shootout by a 5-4 margin.
The loss was doubly painful for the Golden Hawks (16-1), who reached the semifinals undefeated for the second straight year, only to suffer their first loss via penalty kicks.
“Again it comes down to penalty kicks,” a disconsolate RD head coach Steve Grenz said. “It (stinks) that it has to come down to this, but.....”
“Somebody has to move on,” IHA head coach Steve Silver said, “and we tell the girls all the time it’s a way to advance, and if this is the way, then this is how you advance.”
This time it was IHA, which buried all five of its shots, by Jennifer Orlando, Jacquelyn Garlasco, Jaclyn Wood, Dominique Bonura and finally McDonough, who went right even though Mino had guessed right three of the previous four shots.
“I was having a tough time with PK’s during the week in practice,” McDonough admitted, “but the coaches and Jen (Orlando) and Dominique (Bonura) helped me out. I was going right no matter what, because if you decide to change at the last minute, that’s when really end up messing up your shot.”
On River Dell’s second shot, IHA keeper Joanne Romano was able to snuff out a low shot that didn’t get far enough to the right. So, even though Trish Berkanish, Courtney Snyder, Chrissy Klepper and Alana Presslaff had scored, McDonough held the game on her foot.
“I didn’t want to miss,” McDonough said of the final shot. “Our goalie had made a save and I didn’t want to put her through another (penalty kick). I wanted to make sure I placed it right where the keeper couldn’t get it.”
McDonough was playing with her right eye partially swollen, thanks to an allergic reaction to Advil, but she had an eye for the net in the 6th minute. She was able to collect a loose ball about 20 yards to the right of the river Dell goal on a sharp angle. She whirled and shot, beating a stunned Mino with a line drive shot into the center of the net.
“I took a touch (off the throw-in), and I don’t think they thought I was going to shoot it, so I shot and hoped for the best,” McDonough recalled. “I don’t think (Mino) was ready for a shot.”
From that point on, IHA (15-1) dominated the opening half, to the point that River Dell managed only one shot, that coming in the 24th minute when Snyder put one on net that Romano turned away with a sliding stop.
“We came out flat,” Grenz admitted. “We shouldn’t of, we’ve been here before.”
It took 28 minutes before the Hawks could get their next shot on goal, but this time they connected. Having earned a corner kick on the right side, Berkanish sent one along the ground towards the top of the box.
Snyder dummied the ball, allowing it to go past her to Presslaff at the top center of the box. She sent a curling shot that eluded Romano into the left corner of the goal that knotted the game at 1.
“It was a bit shocking, because they scored off the same kind of play we have,” McDonough said.
Neither team could grab the winner in regulation, but it was River Dell that had a pair of golden opportunities in the final 90 seconds, both by Snyder, the dynamic sophomore. The first was a hard volley that had right top shelf written all over it, only to see Romano punch it over the top. Off the corner kick, Snyder again had a great chance, this time to the left corner, but, again, Romano was able to push it outside the post.
“We just couldn’t find that second goal. Courtney had two or three great shots, but their goalie made the save. You’ve got to finish.”
“Sometimes she doesn’t get enough credit,” McDonough said of her netminder, “but today she really played her best.”
“She saved the game, there’s no doubt about it,” Silver said of his senior keeper. “She’s been a part of IHA for four years, and she has some experience and it showed today. It was an extension of her whole match. She was aggressive coming off her line, and I knew she was going to save one of them (penalty kicks).”
Which she did, leaving Grenz with that empty feeling. Two trips to the semifinals wasn’t going to be good enough to offset the loss.
“That was good last year,” Grenz agreed, “but we wanted to win this year. It’s a loss. The girls played their hearts out.”
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