FRANKLIN, NJ - The Ridge girls soccer team will be bidding for its third consecutive trip to the Group 4 state championship game when the Red Devils take on Morris Knolls Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the semifinal round of the Group 4 state tournament at Franklin High School.
Ridge shared the Group 4 state championship two years ago, and lost to Hunterdon Central in the final last year. While Ridge (17-4-1) is not carrying the undefeated mantel it brought into the final two years ago, the Red Devils offer more offensive versatility this season than they had when they clawed and scraped their way into the finals last season on the strength of a suffocating defense.
Of course, there's been a bit of clawing and scraping with this battle-tested 2017 group too. They needed overtime to advance past Bridgewater-Raritan, 2-1, in the Section 2, Group 4 semifinals on Maddy Lui's long-range golden goal last week, and then prevailed in a shootout after 100 minutes of 0-0 soccer against Westfield in the sectional finals. That marked the second year in a row that Ridge captured the sectional title on PKs after a 0-0 game.
Although the final scores might not indicate it, Ridge has been the more dominant offensive team in both of its most recent games, with more opportunities in the attacking end than their opponents. The Red Devils also outshot their opponents in two of their four losses this season.
Six different Ridge players have scored five goals or more this season, led by Katie Arrigan, who has 10. Erin Keefe, who is most frequently employed initiating Ridge's set pieces, has eight goals and five assists. Sam Weyrauch, a tough adversary for any opponent on 50-50 balls in the middle of the pitch, has seven goals and seven assists. Lui, a superb defender, leads Ridge with nine assists.
Coach Katie Donahue's teams always turn in stellar defensive efforts in big games, and this year has been no exception. And junior goalie Ally Lindsey, who has made 73 saves, was as good as ever when Ridge prevailed in its six-round shootout against Westfield.
Three members of this Ridge team--Keefe, Weyrauch and Lindsey--had older sisters who were key contributors to Ridge's 2015 state championship team.
Ridge is always notably aggressive in its efforts to schedule tough opponents both in the pre-season and during the regular season to be well-prepped come tournament time. But the Red Devils have not played Morris Knolls (21-2-1) either in the regular season or in a scrimmage. Morris Knolls might be the most improved team in New Jersey this year: Two years ago, Morris Knolls was just 3-12-5, and last season the Golden Eagles had an 8-12-1 record.