CLARK, NJ- Robbinsville HS sophomore Sara Hutt scored the game-winning goal with under two minutes remaining in the second half of the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 Semifinals in girls soccer to lift No. 4 seeded Robbinsville HS to a 2-1 victory over the No. 1 seeded Johnson Crusaders Tuesday afternoon in Clark.
The players were scrambled around the Johnson net, the ball initially being saved, before Hutt chipped the loose ball on a rebound in front for the game-winning goal to complete the game and help her team advance.
The visitor benches erupted in a loud chorus of cheers as Hutt’s teammates celebrated with her following the goal and once the final whistle was blown, signaling the end of a hard-fought matchup.
The two teams traded major scoring chances in the first half, but neither side could convert them into goals. The teams battled in a scoreless first half.
Robbinsville senior Kellie Hoffman scored her team-leading 23rd goal of the season at the 13:45 mark of the second half to put her team ahead 1-0. This was scored on a free kick outside the box
Johnson tied the game at the 29:25 mark after sophomore Cecilia Puentes netted her ninth goal of the season, taking the cross pass from senior and co-captain Deserae Sequeira, making it 1-1.
The two teams had brief momentum shifts for the rest of the second half, but no goals were scored during that time.
Following Hutt’s goal that made it 2-1, the Crusaders couldn’t find a way to pull off a miracle, ending a season that featured the team overcoming a lot of adversity, including several injuries earlier on the year to key players.
“We’ve had many up-and-downs throughout this season, but the thing that I love about the team is that we never stop, we’re always playing with our heart and we’ll never give up,” Sequeira said.
She finished with 35 goals in her senior year, finishing with a career of 68 goals with the Johnson Girls Varsity Soccer program.
“I’m very proud because our team had a lot of injuries throughout the season and with everyone on our team not giving up since our lineup has changed,” Nieto said. “It’s amazing how far we made it to here, and we never gave up since the beginning.”
Nieto expressed how optimism that the group of underclassmen would take the leadership left by the 2016 seniors and carry it forward with them for the remainder of their careers in the soccer program.
“I’m very confident for them because they all have great personalities,” Nieto said. “They’re all amazing individual players all with different techniques. They’re going to have a nice, bright future as well.”
Johnson senior goaltender and co-captain Meaghan Gallagher saved 12 of 14 Robbinsville shots on goal in the loss for the Crusaders.
“They played a great game,” ALJ head coach Meredith Peitz said. “I think the two teams were evenly matched and it could’ve gone either way, but our goal was to come in with a lot of energy and to never give up and I think that’s exactly what they did. I’m very proud of them. We wish Robbinsville good luck in the finals.”
The Johnson Crusaders finish their 2016 season with a 16-4 record.
The Robbinsville Ravens (10-7-2) advance to the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 State Sectional Final on Friday afternoon. The time and place of the matchup is to be determined.
They will face off against No. 3 seeded Rumson-Fair Haven HS.
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