GLEN RIDGE, NJ-- A heartbreaking loss in the Group 1 semifinal didn't take away from a tremendous all-around season for the Glen Ridge High girls' soccer team.
Head coach Oscar Viteri's team finished 16-8 while winning an eighth straight state sectional championship. The Ridgers came close to playing in a fifth straight Group 1 final and seventh in the last eight years, before losing in overtime, at Mountain Lakes, 4-3, on Nov. 13.
Glen Ridge won 15 of its last 17 games after a 1-6 start this season. The Ridgers' only loss during that run was to Montclair, in the quarterfinals of the county tournament and to Mountain Lakes. Montclair went on to win the county championship and a sectional crown before losing its first game of the season in the Group 4 semifinals, on Nov. 13. Mountain Lakes will take on Shore for the Group 1 championship on Nov. 16.
"We had a good season, especially after that rough start in September, and not having some key players at 100%, fit and healthy," said Viteri. "What can I say? I am blessed to have a great bunch of ladies in this program that buy into what we set our goal for each season. These girls really worked hard and set a goal in August, and almost accomplished that goal by reaching that final game."
What was supposed to be a Group 1 semifinal on a neutral field turned out to be a home game for Mountain Lakes, after the NJSIAA rescheduled the semifinals because of expected frigid temperatures on Nov. 12. Viteri, however, wasn't using that as an excuse for the overtime loss.
"You play the game," the coach said. "No excuses. We made a few defensive mistakes that cost us. Sure, we would have liked to play on a neutral field, at night, as originally scheduled, but it is what it is."
The Ridgers had a number of key players who had excellent seasons. Olivia Carbonell did an outstanding job in goal. Elettra Giantomenico, a sophomore, had started the season at goalie before a hand injury cut short her season.
"When we lost our starting keeper to injury, Olivia did a great job," said Viteri. "She had 87 saves and 10 shutouts along that stretch. She made some great saves to keep us in games."
Senior captain Tara Feenaghty was praised by Viteri for her all-around tremendous season.
"Tara was our leader in the center," the coach said. "She finished with 23 goals and 13 assists. Tara was a four-year starter and a fantastic captain."
Feenaghty was proud of what was accomplished this season.
"It was a tremendous season," said Feenaghty. "We continued the tradition of sectional champs for eight years in a row. The team showed massive dedication and hard work, proven by our final record (after the 1-6 start). Being able to be captain has been such a rewarding experience and I am beyond proud of all my teammates, and their dedication, tenacity, and positive attitudes. I wouldn’t trade this team for anything. Soccer has been the highlight of my four years of high school."
Olivia Hoover was a dynamic scorer for the team, with 14 goals and seven assists while Ania Prussak came back from an injury and played very well. Prussak excelled in the state tournament and finished with seven goals and five assists.
Another who played well after an injury was Sydney Mansfield.
"Sydney scored the game-winner to crown us sectional champions, again," said Viteri.
Senior captains Madison Grady, Samantha Lovit and Taylor Townson were all credited with outstanding leadership, by Viteri.
"Madison was a leader on and off the field, a steady defender as a four-year starter," said Viteri. "Sammy had a great state tournament and stepped up when we needed that extra push. Taylor had an excellent season for us. She filled in for players at different positions. It was a tough task, but she handled it with class. They were all fantastic captains and they're all going to be missed. We have some talented kids returning, but some big gaps to fill with graduation, too."
Others who excelled for the Ridgers this fall were Kayla Garske, Kaitlyn Degnan, Evie Fawcett, Sarah Cullinan, Talia Reid, Alison Shea, Mary Ann O'Gorman, Caroline Weinstein, Ava Katronis, Alec Wecler, Lily Kuhn, Defne Zeybek, Delaney Bongo and Caitlin Cifelli.
"Kayla was one of the most improved players this season for us," said Viteri of Garske. "She has great speed to track forwards down and contain them, and clears the ball away. Sarah Cullinan had a fantastic season and played a huge role for us, up top. She's a great kid. Talia had a great season for us, up top as well, scoring four goals this season.
Shea is a tireless player who plays each game at 100%. We're be looking for her to step up next season and own the middle part of the field. O'Gorman was one of the most vocal team supporters from the side line. She's always has a positive attitude and words of encourage meant to help push her teammates."
Viteri was pleased with the way everyone worked to win another title.
"I am blessed to have coached and come to practice and games everyday with these student-athletes," said Viteri. "They work hard and do whatever we, as coaches, ask of them to do. That is why each season we play late into November. It’s their dedication, work ethic and the love for the game that they display at all time. A special thank you to our wonderful trainer Tia, and her staff. Thank you for what you do everyday Tia. You are a Ridger forever.
"I want to thank the parents that came out each game to support us, and the student body that came out to cheer on their classmates. I also want to thank Brian Ianni and coach Lindsey for always getting the girls ready and focused. I am pleased every season to have a great coaching staff that sees what I see, and the goals these young ladies can attain."