BASKING RIDGE, NJ - The Ridge girls soccer team will seek a winning start to its 2017 season Thursday afternoon by enlisting the "hair of the dog" that bit them.

Ten months after falling to Hunterdon Central in the Group 4 state championship game, Ridge will open its season with a home game against that very same opponent at 4 p.m. in a battle of Red Devils.

And while Ridge rode a tremendous collective defensive effort to reach the Group 4 final for the second straight year (after tying for the state crown in 2015), there is hope that this year's team, which returns a large core of experienced players, might be able to ignite some more of the firepower whose absence made so many games last fall taut defensive struggles.

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Forwards Katie Arrigan, Emma Wightman and Molly Mahoney and midfielders Sam Weyrauch, Erin Keefe, Caitlyn Laffey and Elizabeth Perna have head coach Katie Donahue predicting that "the scoring will be spread out," which she hopes will make her Red Devils a chore to scout and defend.

No matter what the state of Ridge's attack, there is seldom ever a time when the program's back line is not a strength, and that should again be the case this year with experienced seniors Maddy Lui and Kaitlyn Madden joined in the back by sophomore Cammie Wylie, who saw some varsity time as a freshman. Junior goalie Ally Lindsey had a great season as a 10th-grader.

Two of Ridge's starters have committed to Division 1 colleges to continue their athletic careers: Madden will attent the University of Alabama and Keefe is headed to Lehigh University.

"I'm looking forward to watching our players evolve and step up into roles that are now open," Donahue said. "We're looking to play good soccer, take care of the ball, improve through the season, and hold our own through a very difficult September schedule."

In addition to defending champion Hunterdon Central, other top-level opponents that Ridge will face in the first three weeks of the season include Watchung Hills, Livingston, Bridgewater-Raritan and Northern Highlands. Last year, Ridge struggled through the first few weeks of the season, posting a 4-3-2 record before running off 12 victories in its next 13 games leading up to the state final.