CRANFORD - Third time was the charm for the Cranford girls soccer program.
Olivia Russomanno scored two goals while Kirsten Williams and Aileen McGovern each added one as fourth-seeded Cranford defeated second-seeded Brick Township, 4-0, for the Central East D championship.
The win ends the program's 20-yard state title drought following back-to-back heart-breaking sectional finals losses to Middletown North in 2018 and Middletown South in 2019.
"20 years is a long time to go without a title, so we knew coming into this, that this group of players that have been with us for the three years we've been to the final, we really harped on the fact that we can not let this one go," said Cranford head coach Andrew Gagliardo. "I thought we came out today and played the best game of our season, and we thought it was perfectly timed. Everyone worked their butts off and played for each other."
Russomanno, a sophomore in her first year with the team, put on a clinic early using her speed to break through Brick Township's middle and back third, scoring two goals in the first 26 minutes. With less than two minutes to go in the first-half, McGovern shot far post to add an insurance goal.
The Cougars' offense was only able to string together 13 goals in 10 regular season and two county tournament games. Williams' goal in the 58th minute Sunday was Cranford's 13th goal through three state tournament games.
"This season was crazy," said senior captain Sophia Montague who finished with two assists. "We didn't have any scrimmages beforehand. Every one was supposed to have one, but ours got canceled. The beginning of the season, we were still trying to find our footing, and when the state tournament came around, we blended well together."
"We always talk about as coaches telling these players that you always want to peak at the right time," added Gagliardo. "Usually, there's two times of the year which are the county tournament and the state tournament. Our county tournament was a little funky, so after that county tournament, we knew if we were going to keep going, we had to readjust and reassess mentally."
In a year of school districts shutting down the sports season due to COVID-19 outbreaks, senior captain Abby Ahern said the team pulled together to take extra precautions to ensure the season was able to finish.
"The whole season we were stressing that we needed to be safe if wanted to finish the season," said Ahern. "We all took personal responsibility."
Check out all four goals by Cranford on Sunday