GLEN RIDGE, NJ-- After a slow start, the Glen Ridge High girls' soccer team has been playing very well, winning seven of its last eight games.
The Ridgers took an 8-7 record into a road game with Golda Och, on Oct. 17, at 4:30 p.m. The team returns home to play Nutley, on Oct. 21, starting at 4 p.m., at Watsessing Park.
Glen Ridge opened the season with a 1-6 record, including three losses by a goal each to Mount St. Dominic, Livingston and West Essex. Since then, the team has been on a roll, with wins over Roselle Park, 2-0, Caldwell, 3-0, Hudson Catholic, 8-1, Columbia, 1-0, St. Dominic, 8-1, Montclair Kimberley, 1-0, and Cedar Grove, 5-0. The only setback came to top-seeded and unbeaten Montclair, 4-0, in the quarterfinals of the Essex County Tournament, on Oct. 12.
The Ridgers' head coach, Oscar Viteri, likes what he's seen from the team, which will soon vie for an eighth straight state sectional championship.
"The early schedule is always tough for us," said Viteri. "We were right there against some good (Super Essex Conference) teams, but came up short. We're a Group 1 school, and playing the bigger schools is a challenge, but in the long run, it will help us with our goal of winning a state championship. We lost our season opener to Montclair Kimberley, but then came back to defeat them (1-0) in the county tournament. MKA has been tough on us the past few years, so that was a big win for our kids."
In the team's most recent win, Glen Ridge defeated Cedar Grove as team captain Tara Feenaghty scored a pair of goals. Feenaghty, a 4-year starter, is optimistic the team is hitting its stride.
"After improving our record, I believe It will only get better from here," said Feenaghty, who scored the game's only goal in a victory over Columbia, on Oct. 2. "(With this) being my fourth year on the team and winning sectional championships, each year, our goal is to get to win another sectional.
"This is the time of season when the team kicks It into high gear and begins to thrive. Every day and every game, we keep in mind making It to state finals, and losing for the past three years. We believe that this will be our year and we aim to make It back to Kean (University, the site of the Group 1 championship game), but (this time) end up on top. Each girl is continuously improving and the team looks better every game."
Feenaghty's Ridgers have enjoyed tremendous success over the years, but have come up short in the Group 1 title game. It lost on penalty kicks, to Audubon High, in 2018, after a scoreless game in regulation and overtime. It dropped a heartbreaker in the 2017 final, to Shore High School, of Long Branch, 5-4. Shore also defeated Glen Ridge in the 2015 and 2016 final, also by one goal each. In 2012, Glen Ridge defeated Shore for the Group 1 title and in 2013, Glen Ridge and Shore shared the championship when the title game ended in a tie. (The penalty kick format to determine a winner wasn't instilled until 2018).
"Tara has been playing very well," said Viteri. "She's such a tough player. Last year, she had a knee injury which required surgery, but still played through it. Tara's that kind of competitor."
When starting goalie Elettra Giantomenico suffered a hand injury, junior Olivia Carbonell took over and has done a very good in goal. She played a tremendous game against Montclair, in the county quarterfinals, and has posted five shutouts while allowing just two goals in Glen Ridge's last seven victories.
"Olivia has done the job," said Viteri. "She plays the game aggressively and loves the competition. We faced a tremendous team in Montclair, and she made some very good saves to keep us in the game. Montclair is the real deal, there's a reason why they're unbeaten and ranked fourth in the state."
A strong senior class also features Madison Grady, Samantha Lovit, Evie Fawcett, Taylor Townson, Sarah Cullinan, Delaney Bongo, Caitlin Cifelli and Mary Ann O'Gorman.
The juniors include Hayley Foster, Sydney Mansfield, Ania Prussak and Talia Reid while the sophomore class has talented players in Kaitlyn Degnan, Alison Shea, Olivia Hoover, Kayla Garske, Lily Kuhn, Caroline Weinstein and Defne Zeybek. The freshmen are Ava Kotronis, Alex Wecler and Megan Varga-Farnham.