Senior MaryClare Langan scored twice inside the first 15 minutes to give Ramapo the lead for good on the way to a 4-2 victory over NV/Demarest in the semifinals of the Bergen County Tournament on Sunday in Oradell.
ORADELL – MaryClare Langan has the kind of talent that might preclude her from high school soccer. A Division 1 recruit with the foot speed and touch to make a difference every time she gets on the ball, Langan is plenty good enough to skip high school soccer all together. It’s the unfortunate trend now where the “best” high school age players give up the benefits of scholastic soccer for the perceived advantages of an academy where they prepare for the future while forsaking the joys of the present.
Langan is a throwback in that regard. She always wanted to wear the green jersey of Ramapo High School and never wavered in her commitment.
“I just like the energy of our team. Since my freshman year I looked up to the older girls. Coming into this season I could have played DA for my club team, but I couldn’t give [high school soccer] up for my last year,” said Langan, who will play at Villanova University next year. “I have always wanted to be the senior, to be the captain and bring the energy. Even outside of the field we all hang out together. Every part of it is so much fun and that is why I play.”
Langan played and was the difference maker for Ramapo in the semifinals of the Bergen County Tournament on Sunday at River Dell High School. The top-seeded Green Raiders have not gotten past the semifinal round in any of the last six county tournaments, but Langan opened the path just 1:42 into the match against Northern Valley/Demarest.
Demarest had just seen a ball out over the endline and put the ball back in play with a line drive from the 6 that went right to the foot of Lauren Chin just to the right of the center circle. Chin touched the ball to Langan, who did not hesitate in letting one fly from 40-or-so yards out. And she did not look surprised at all when the ball tucked itself under the crossbar and in to give Ramapo the lead for good in a 4-2 victory that moves the Raiders into the Bergen County championship match against Ridgewood, a 2-0 winner over IHA in the other soggy semifinal.
Emily Holzer's goal 40 seconds into the second half got Demarest back to within 3-2,
“I actually heard Mia [Suchora] scream, ‘Take the shot!’ and I feel like that is a classic that happens once a season,” said Langan, speaking of the game’s first goal. “I just kind of ripped it and went for it. I got my body over the ball, which helped and it had the curve to over the goalie’s hands, so I meant to do it, I guess.”
Langan added a second in the 15th minute and she rifled one back across the box and into the lower left for a 2-0 Ramapo lead. The Raiders made it 3-0 when Mia Suchora was taken down in the box without argument and Mary Cochran converted the PK to make it 3-0 with still 22:48 to play in the opening half. It looked at that point that Ramapo would be able to name the final score, but Demarest showed its pride shortly thereafter.
Off the kickoff after Ramapo’s third goal, Demarest’s Victoria Constantine weaved her way in to the box on the left side and nudged a ball through traffic and in to give the Norsewomen, whose renaissance began last season when they reached the county semifinals for the first time in program history, a way back into the game. They got into halftime still down 3-1 and then made the proceedings interesting with an Emily Holzer goal just 40 seconds into the second half to make it a one-goal game.
By that time the rain had started to fall steadily and the wet conditions, plus Demarest’s refusal to back down kept the Green Raiders from feeling too comfortable.
“It was important to get the two early ones just to kind of set the tone, but we had our moments as well,” said Ramapo head coach Sarah Francini. “They had good pressure up top, that No. 9 [Holzer] put a lot of pressure on our backs. She created some good opportunities and they definitely had a threat going forward, but we hung in there with them.”
Mia Suchora's goal with 25:55 left in the game secired the win for Ramapo, which will play Ridgewood in the county final.
Just one goal separated the teams for the better part of 15 minutes, but Ramapo never took Demarest lightly as it was expecting a tight match all along.
“We knew that this was going to be a pretty even game. We definitely did not come into it thinking we were going to kill them or anything. We just knew that we had to come out strong and play fair and that was really what we did,” said Dom Bianchini, Ramapo’s senior defender. “This means everything to all of us. We are all so close and we all just want this [county title]. It’s so clear in practice, it’s such a competitive environment and this is the best team that I have been a part of in all of my years at Ramapo.”
Ramapo, the original girls soccer super power not only in North Jersey, but also state wide before seeding that status to rival Northern Highlands for the past decade-plus, had lost in the county semifinal round in each of the last six seasons and have not won a county championship in 16 years, but Suchora made sure they snapped the former streak and moved to within one win of putting the latter to bed as well.
Suchora, a strong on-the-ball midfielder and a magnet for defensive contact, took a ball in the box, held possession while the Norsemen scrambled in front of her and then deposited it for the 4-2 lead that made the final 25:55 of the game a bit more manageable for Ramapo, which will face Ridgewood for all of the marbles on Friday night.
“We have a lot of players that don’t know how to give up, which is nice, especially in these big games,” said Francini, a Ramapo alum herself who knows the Green Raiders’ history as well as anyone. “It’s been a long time since Ramapo has taken home a county title. We just have to work hard and bring our best game to the next match.”