BASKING RIDGE, NJ - With the way the Ridge girls soccer team has been locking down opponents the second half of this season, scoring an early goal in a big game certainly gives the Red Devils a sense of security.
Senior Anna Hess provided that early edge with a goal with 9:42 left in the first half, and Ridge made the tally hold up for a 1-0 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan in the quarterfinal round of then NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4 tournament on Friday.
Ridge (13-4-2) will face top-seeded Westfield on the road on Tuesday in the sectional semifinals.
Friday's victory reversed a 1-0 victory that Bridgewater-Raritan (12-5-2) handed to Ridge in late September. But the Red Devils are a more cohesive unit than they were six weeks ago, and they showed that Friday by controlling the action for a good portion of the contest.
"Since the first time we played them, we've improved," Ridge coach Katie Donahue said. "This was a real team effort."
With 9:42 showing in the opening half, senior forward Julia Lindsey came out of traffic in the right corner in Bridgewater's end and sent a cross into the box for Hess, who delivered a shot right past Panthers goalie Marissa Cook to snap the scoreless tie.
"Anna has come up big for us," Donahue said. "Any time we finish like that is great. Bridgewater is very similar to us. They are fast and physical."
The game bogged down into a physical defensive battle the rest of the way, but Bridgewater-Raritan only challenged Ridge goalie Ally Lindsey twice, with Lindsey going low to save a shot headed for paydirt with 16:02 left in the second half. After that, with Ally Friedman and Maddie Lui anchoring the back, Ridge kept the Panthers from mustering any other serious threats.
Ridge outshot Bridgewater-Raritan, 11-2. The Red Devils' best scoring chance came on a Julia Lindsey header with 19:15 left in the second half that was saved by Cook.