BRIDGEWATER, NJ -- One player who has been through the wars of the Bridgewater-Raritan vs. Ridge girls soccer rivalry for four years, and another who is new to it, combined to bring the Panthers another county championship.
Senior Allison Lowrey and freshman Caitlin Dzuroska each scored a goal to give third-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan its third consecutive Somerset County Tournament championship with a 2-0 victory over fourth-seeded Ridge Saturday at the Torpey Complex.
Bridgewater-Raritan defeated Ridge for the 2017 title and won over Watchung Hills last year. Ridge defeated BRHS in the 2015 final.
The same senior/freshman combination scored in the Panthers' 2-0 victory over Rutgers Prep in the semifinals. Lowrey, who is headed to Rutgers University, connected with 15:08 left in the first half with an assist from Annie Clapp--another freshman--to give BRHS (12-5) a 1-0 lead. Lowrey converted a pass from Clapp in the box and deposited it into the side of the net.
"I saw the space, and Annie played it to me," Lowrey said of her goal. "I took a touch and just dropped it to the side."
"It took Allison's touch to put that ball in the corner," Bridgewater-Raritan coach Chris Gerber said. "Ridge had momentum before that goal, and it was up to us when we got the opportunity to do something with it."
Coming out of the half trailing, 1-0, Ridge (9-7-1) spent much of the first 20 minutes of the second half on the attack, coming perilously close to tying the game with 20:23 left when Cammie Wylie's head ball off a corner kick hit the crossbar.
"When that ball hit the crossbar, it woke us up," Gerber said. "From there we tightened our defense, and a few minutes later we put an extra defender in the back."
With 13:43 left in the game, Dzuroska scored unassisted from 15 yards out on the left side of the box with a shot into the right corner of the net to extend Bridgewater's lead to 2-0.
"Caitlin has been scoring in big moments for us," Gerber said. "She is mature beyond her years, and in this case, when she had her shot, she knew she had to kill it off."
A two-goal deficit against a two-time defending champion was too much for Ridge to overcome, especially with gifted keeper Maggie Ousouljoglou (six saves) in goal and Amanda Martinho, Sarah Walker, Olivia Humlen, Lauren Sullivan and Rylee Sant'Angelo holding forth on the back line.
"They got us one time, and we weren't gonna let them get us back again this time," said Ousouljoglou, referring to Ridge's 2-1 overtime regular-season victory over Bridgewater a few weeks ago. "Our defense stayed composed and they didn't let Ridge get much through us."
"We played zone off Ridge's corners this time," Lowrey said. "The last time, when they won, we were playing man to man against them. We didn't leave anybody open today."
With another county trophy secure in their possession, the Panthers open play in the Section 2, Group 4 state tournament at home Monday against Plainfield. If they win that, there's a good chance yet another meeting with Ridge would await in the section quarterfinals next Thursday.
If the third meeting occurs, Lowrey said, "It's gonna be a bloodbath."