BASKING RIDGE, NJ — The Ridge field hockey team achieved its mission of grabbing an early lead. Once that was accomplished, the Red Devils were able to realize their larger goal.
Clare Giuliano's goal on a penalty stroke in the first quarter held up as Ridge defeated Hillsborough, 1-0, Saturday afternoon to win the Central B West sectional championship on its home field.
"Scoring in the first five minutes was a big goal of ours," Ridge field hockey coach Kimberly Clark said.
Giuliano lined up her shot and nailed it with 7:30 left in the first quarter, and the Ridge's defense and goalie Emma Albee did the rest, stifling Hillsborough's efforts to tie the game.
"After we hit a defensive player's shin guard, I had no doubt that Clare was going to make that shot," Clark said. "She has an unstoppable stroke. And her shot practically tore off the back of the net."
Giuliano admitted that staying relaxed wasn't easy in such a big spot.
"I just had so much adrenaline. I was so nervous there," said Giuliano, a junior. "I just tried to stay calm and just put it through the net. The excitement was through the roof. This was amazing."
Although Ridge did not score again, the Red Devils (11-6-1) had the better of play much of the game.
"I thought we dominated, but we just couldn't find the back of the net," Clark said. "Our defense was amazing. The leadership we got in the back from our senior goalie, Emma Albee, as well as Clare, who is our center back; Felicia Milligan, a first-year varsity player on the left in the back; and Liz Ong, a senior three-year varsity player in the back. They all came up huge in the back for us."
Albee had two saves for Ridge, which also won the Section 1, Group 4 championship last season with Albee in goal.
"Without Emma, we would not have made it this far," Giuliano said.
Ridge closed out the season with five consecutive victories, and three shutouts in its last four games. The Red Devils had beaten Hillsborough, 2-0, during the regular season. To reach Saturday's championship game, Ridge defeated two teams--Hunterdon Central and North Hunterdon--that it had lost to in the regular season.