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HOLMDEL, NJ: - A lot of fight and a no quit attitude filled the veins of the Holmdel High School girls soccer team when they were staring at a one-goal deficit with less than 20 minutes to play in Monday night’s game against Monmouth Regional.
The Hornets battled back to tie the game for the second time in the last half of play and then in the 70th minute of action, took the lead on a goal scoring header by sophomore Samantha Sportelli that ultimately led to Holmdel defeating its Shore Conference A-Central Division rival 2-1.
“It’s important to have fight. It shows character. It shows resiliency,” said Holmdel girls soccer coach James Gelpke. “The girls never laid their heads down and fought back. We went down again and fought back and were able to equalize it. We continued to fight and were able to put them away.”
Controlling most of the action in the first half, Holmdel had nothing to show for it with missing out on a handful of scoring opportunities, while Monmouth Regional’s Ranya Senhaji scored her eighth goal of the season with 7:17 left to play in the first half that gave the Falcons a 1-0 halftime lead.
Down a goal coming out of halftime, the Hornets fired back quickly to begin the second half to even things up.
Sophomore goalkeeper Hailey Sharpe began the Holmdel rally with a nice sliding save to begin the second half, while forward Taylor Bielan followed by making another big impact for the Hornets in her freshman campaign.
Off a nice feed from teammate Gabby Porchetta, Bielan darted in her third goal of the season into the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1 just under five minutes into the second half.
Holmdel’s newcomer impacted the game in a big way later on, making a beautiful crossing pass to the box on Sportelli’s game-winning goal for the assist.
“I’m proud of myself that I have been able to step up and help the team win,” Bielan said. “I’m new to the town and the school district. The team has been very welcoming to me and the connection has been there from the start. We’re working well together as a team.”
The tie didn’t last long as Monmouth Regional took advantage of a free kick opportunity in the Holmdel zone to retake the lead.
Jillian Vigil drilled a booming shot right over Sharpe and into the net off her free kick in the 51st minute to put Monmouth Regional up 2-1.
Trailing by a goal once again, Holmdel continued to battle and found a way in the last 15 minutes of play to tie it up once again.
Dribbling the ball in the Monmouth Regional zone around the 25 yard-line, Lexie Wojie swerved a pass over to teammate Sofia Mancino coming up the field.
Right as the ball hit her right foot, Manico drove a looping shot that curved past the hands of the Monmouth Regional goalkeeper Sierra Aviles and bounced into the net to tie the game with 12:02 left to play.
“We’ve been practicing those types of shots, so when I saw that opportunity I decided to take it,” Mancino said. “This was a huge game for us to comeback and win. It’s going to give us a lot of confidence moving forward.
Mancino has scored a goal in each of the last games for the Hornets.
The game didn’t stay tied for long again with the Hornets this time striking to take its first lead of the game just two minutes later.
Racing with the ball up the right sideline, Bielan drove a beautiful crosser to the box where Sportelli stood in perfect position to head home the go-ahead goal for her second goal of the season.
“It was like the most perfect ball you could ever want” Sportelli said. “It was in the perfect spot. It couldn’t have been more perfect. It was very exciting to score and give us the lead.”
Holmdel held onto its lead in the final 10 minutes of play with stellar play from its defense and Sharpe.
The sophomore goalkeeper picked up a couple key saves to help Holmdel close out its second win of the season, finishing with seven saves in the win.
Aviles finished with nine saves in the loss for Monmouth Regional.
Both juniors Julia Brusco and Emma Lionette continued their excellent play so far this season in the win for the Hornets.
Holmdel (2-3) has now won back-to-back games after starting off the season 0-3.
Getting their winning mojo going over the past few games, Gelpke believes his Hornets team is building great momentum going into the midway mark of the season.
“We expect to be competitive in every game we play,” Gelpke said. “We started off the season against some tough competition. We have a couple wins now under our belt. We believe that we can compete against those tough teams. We’re hoping that we can make a nice little run now and build on it for the postseason to make runs in the Shore Conference Tournament and state tournament.”
Holmdel will next travel to play Rumson-Fair Haven on Thursday.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports