CRANFORD - The game had been on their minds since preseason.
Last year, Cranford marched its way to the Union County final with a record of 15-2, but in its way stood a team that had won eight consecutive county titles: Scotch Plains-Fanwood. 10 days prior, Cranford defeated Scotch Plains-Fanwood for the first time in over three years by a score of 2-1. Unfortunately, that momentum didn't carry over as Scotch Plains-Fanwood went on to win 2-0 to secure its ninth consecutive UCT title.
On Thursday, 80 minutes wasn't enough to decide a winner between two of New Jersey's top public high school girls soccer programs. Tied 1-1 in overtime, Claire Ganley threw in an absolute bomb into the box where Kirsten Williams was in perfect position to head in the game winner as Cranford, No. 12 in the NJ.com Top 20 Ranking, upset No. 4 Scotch Plains Fanwood 2-1.
"It's a game we've been thinking about," said Ganley. "In our lockers, we all put our goals for the season and a bunch of people had 'beat Scotch Plains' on them so I think we all really wanted revenge after that County Final game because, to be honest, we didn't play our best. We wanted to show them who we really are."
Ganley, a senior center back, takes all of Cranford's throw-ins as long as she is on the field, no matter where the throw-ins occur from. But how does Ganley get so much behind all of her throws?
"My shoulders are hyper extended," answered Ganley. "My shoulders bend back further than normal, so I think that's how I'm able to do it."
Williams had another header off a Ganley throw-in that was on goal earlier on in the first-half, but Scotch Plains-Fanwood goalie Maya Kessler stopped it. Willliams knew at some point she'd get another chance.
"I was in the right place at the right time but also every now and then when (Ganley) throws it, I can kind of read where she's going to put it. I kind of have the ability always get there, sometimes late, but luckily I was on that one."
After a scoreless first-half, Cranford drew first blood when Maggie Murray shot far post over the head of Kessler. The Cougars enjoyed the lead for just about four minutes before Leah Klurman tied things up for Scotch Plains-Fanwood off a free kick after one of many questionable foul calls. Despite being on the wrong side of nearly every whistle, the Cougars were able to keep their composure.
"Any time we had any kind of breaks, whether it was halftime or before overtime, we told the girls 'control what you can control.' You cannot control the refs. You cannot control the weather. What we can control is our effort, our attitude, and our work rate," said Cranford head coach Andrew Gagliardo. "This is a game of momentum, so when you're feeling down on your possession, you've just got to be hard, be focused, know that it will come back, and trust the process."
Cranford (6-1) will next play at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at Oak Knoll. The Cougars defeated Oak Knoll 4-3 in their season-opener.
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