BASKING RIDGE, NJ - For the second time in 13 days, the girls' soccer teams from Ridge and Bridgewater-Raritan will be playing each other for a championship.
On Thursday, the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 4 championship will be on the line at 2 p.m. at Ridge High School. On Oct. 31, Ridge (21-0), ranked 14th in the nation by USA Today, defeated Bridgewater-Raritan (17-7), 1-0, in overtime to claim the Somerset County Tournament championship.
Thursday's encounter will mark the fourth time the two teams have met. Ridge has won all three meetings to date, and Bridgewater has yet to score against the Red Devils in more than 259 minutes of action this fall. But Ridge does not figure to be overconfident, given that the scores of its three victories over the Panthers were just 1-0, 2-0 and 1-0.
Moreover, Bridgewater would seem to be a far tougher team than its record would suggest, because the Panthers have played a brutally tough schedule, with three losses to Ridge, two to Hunterdon Central and one each to Montclair and Ramapo. And Bridgewater-Raritan is coming off a 2-1 road upset of Scotch Plains-Fanwood in the semifinal, when the Panthers answered a last-minute game-tying goal by SPF with a wide-open, point-blank game-winner by Jezlyn Jimenez. Scotch Plains-Fanwood, which defeated Ridge in overtime in last year's sectional championship game, had allowed just four goals all season before Bridgewater nicked them twice on Monday.
Bridgewater-Raritan goalie Alexa Barbagallo is tough to score against at all times, as Ridge well knows. But Ridge has an airtight defense that has posted 17 shutouts, with Erin Convery anchoring the back and Samantha Carney in goal; and a diversified offensive attack, with Chrissy Weyrauch, Julia Lindsey and Shannon Keefe each scoring 14 goals this season.