September 25, 2011
By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
Nicolette Rich scored both goals for West Milford, which is now North Jersey's lone unbeaten team after a 2-1 victory at Ramsey on Saturday morning.
RAMSEY – Saturday's field hockey match was just one of those where coaches have no need for motivational speeches. As the last two unbeaten teams left in North Jersey, Ramsey and West Milford would get to settled which is the best team in North Jersey at this point in the season the old-fashioned way: on the field. As expected, the game was an evenly-matched battle right from the opening whistle until the final minutes when one wayward shot did not directly find its mark, but ended up being the difference in the game anyway.
West Milford's Nicolette Rich scored her second goal of the game with 4:27 to play to snap a tie and keep the Highlanders undefeated while handing Ramsey its first loss of the season with a hard-fought 2-1 triumph at Ramsey High School.
"It was a roller coaster ride all game long, but we hung in there and toughed it out," said West Milford head coach Jill Cullen.
Neither team could generate much offense as the teams combined to take just three shots over the first 18 minutes of play. After a shot in the opening minute, the Highlanders were on their heels for most of the first half. But the one true scoring chance they had they cashed in on. Samantha Browne, North Jersey's leading scorer coming into the game, had a shot on net that was saved by Ramsey keeper Rachel Moore. Rich was right there though to pounce on the rebound and put it in the back of the cage to give West Milford a 1-0 lead.
Ramsey went right back on the attack and had the better of play throughout the first half. But when it ended, the Highlanders were still holding onto a 1-0 lead with their ability to defend short corners being a huge factor. The Rams have made a living over the years in making teams pay on set pieces, but could not get off a shot on any of their six first-half corners.
|Meredith Hudson scored Ramsey's goal on a rebound.
"I thought we possessed the ball well, we just needed to get more shots though off of our corners," said Ramsey head coach Becky Fantry. "In both halves, we had some good scoring opportunities as they did mostly in the second half. You have to put those away though or the opposing team will take advantage, which it what West Milford did today. It's always frustrating to lose, but we have time to learn from it. This is a game that will certainly keep us honest and it will make us stronger in the long run."
Just over 10 minutes into the second half, Ramsey evened the score. Meredith Hudson came off the bench to provide a spark offensively with her hustle. Off a corner, the Rams finally broke through when Melanie Consiglio's shot was saved, but Hudson was there to tuck home the rebound, which tied the score at 1.
Both teams had scoring chances throughout the second half. Moore and West Milford's Jenna Bednarovsky both played well in between the pipes and came up with some big saves to keep the game deadlocked until Rich unleashed the game-winning blast.
After taking a pass from Meghan Curran, Rich took the ball in the middle of the field and dribbled it diagonally to her right. Just as she got inside the circle, Rich took a hard shot that went just inside the left post and in with 4:27 to play that made it 2-1. Most players would be going crazy after scoring a potential game-winning goal against an undefeated team, but Rich's reaction seemed to be more shock than anything else and with good reason.
"I was actually aiming for just inside the right post and I thought I mishit, and all of a sudden it went in," said Rich, who now has seven goals on the season. "I couldn't believe it went in, but I'll take it. This win was really big for us. It was a tense game and Ramsey is a real good team. We just had to pick it up in the second half and just try to make something happen."
|Meghan Curran assisted on the game-winner for West Milford.
West Milford's defense made the lead hold up, allowing only a single shot over the final 4:27 to improve to 7-0 on the season. Rich, a senior, had her first multi-goal game of the year and Bednarovsky finished with 10 saves for the Highlanders.
Moore finished with eight saves for Ramsey (6-1), which also got a strong performance defensively from Eve DePiero, who held the dangerous Samantha Browne (who had scored at least two goals in every game this season) scoreless.
Both teams hope this game will help them towards their ultimate goals of county and state sectional titles. But now only one of them has to worry staying undefeated and that is West Milford, which will take on an added bit of pressure being the only undefeated team left in North Jersey. But to be a championship team, you have to deal with that pressure of being on top and Cullen looks forward to seeing how her team responds.
"There is going to be more pressure with each game, but I know we have the kids who can handle it," added Cullen. "There are a lot of seniors on this team with a ton of varsity experience, and that definitely helps. I honestly didn't think we would win our first seven games. I figured that we would jell and get stronger as the season went on, but I'm certainly happy with where we are at and look forward to seeing what else we can accomplish this season."
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