Glen Ridge, NJ--"Let's Finish This".
That's been the slogan all season for the Glen Ridge High girls' soccer team. And following a 1-0 victory over New Providence in the North 2, Group 1 championship game, on Nov. 7, in New Providence, the Ridgers are getting closer to the LFT acronym.
Head coach Oscar Viteri's team won its eighth straight state sectional championship and will play in the Group 1 semifinal, on Tuesday, Nov. 12, against Mountain Lakes, at Passaic Tech High School, starting at 6 p.m. The winner of that game will move on to play the winner of the game between Shore Regional and defending champion Audubon High, on Nov. 16, at Kean University, starting at 2 p.m.
The current Ridger seniors came up with the LFT slogan for 2019, in the hope the team can win its first Group 1 title since 2013. While the Ridgers have won eight straight sectional titles, it has come up short wtih one goal losses in the Group 1 final to Shore Regional from 2015-2017 and a loss, on penalty kicks to Audubon last fall.
"We really want to finish it this season," said senior captain Samantha Lovit, during a chilly practice on Nov. 8. "Winning the (sectional) championship this year, on the road, was really special. The stands were packed and we had to overcome a really good team."
Viteri, who has been at the helm since 2001, and has now led Glen Ridge to 10 sectional titles, noted how gratifying this year's win was, on the road.
"We've had some tough games with New Providence over the years," said Viteri. "We played really well this time against them. New Providence's goalie was outstanding. I thought we had a chance to score a few goals in the first half, but she played really well."
Glen Ridge scored the game's only goal in the second half, when Sydney Mansfield took a pass from Ania Prussak and found the back of the net. The goal was key since Mansfield and Prussak, both juniors, had each missed a good deal of the 2019 regular season with injuries.
"It feels great to be back and a part of this run," said Mansfield. "This is my third year on the (varsity) and I like the way our team is coming around."
"It was good to be a part of that goal," said Prussak. "We're finally healthy as a team and feel good about our chances this year. It's going to be tough. Mountain Lakes has a really good team, but we're ready for the challenge."
Glen Ridge won for the 15th time in its last 16 games and improved to 16-7 on the season. The only loss during that run was to unbeaten Montclair, in the Essex County Tournament quarterfinals. Montclair won its sectional championship and is ranked second in the state, heading into the Group 4 semifinal.
"Actually, losing to Montclair showed us what we're capable of doing," said senior captain Tara Feenaghty. "And winning a (sectional) championship on a different field than ours was really nice. Our team is excited for the rest of the season."
Feenaghty has some good memories of Glen Ridge's last game against Mountain Lakes, in the 2017 Group 1 semifinal. She scored the game's only goal, in the second overtime, on a 40-yard shot, at Indian Hills High.
"That was an awesome shot," recalled Madison Grady, like Feenaghty, a senior captain. "We've had some really exciting games in the states, and to be a part of it for four years is incredible. We want to finish the job now."
Taylor Townson, also a senior captain, is happy that the team is healthy.
"We just got Kaitlyn Degnan back in the lineup, and that's going to help us, a lot, on defense," said Townson. "We're going to practice hard, but get a little rest, too, and prepare for the next game, against Mountain Lakes."
Degnan, a sophomore, tore her ACL in the Group 1 final a year ago.
The seniors appreciate the pressure attached to winning a title.
"When we were younger," said Grady, "we kind of relied on the older players to lead the way. Now, it's us, and that's exciting, but a challenge, too. We didn't want to be the team to end the streak, and we're happy to get the chance to win the (Group 1) championship."
Townson felt the same way.
"I don't know if's pressure," she said. "But being a captain has responsibilities, and it feels to good to be in this position."
The Glen Ridge players also appreciated how good the New Providence goalie, Carleigh Robertson, performed in the sectional final.
"She was tremendous," said Feenaghty.
"She made some awesome saves," said Lovitt. "That's why it was such a good win."
Two more games to go, and the Ridgers can truly say that they finished it.