SPRINGFIELD, NJ - While the New Providence High girls soccer team was eliminated in the first round of the official Union County Tournament last month, the Lady Pioneers are more than making up for it in the state tournament.
On Wednesday afternoon, New Providence, seeded fifth, earned a 2-0 victory over top-seeded Brearley, 2-0, in the semifinal round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section 2, Group 1 tournament at Meisel Field in Springfield.
The Lady Pioneers have now defeated three county foes - Dayton, Roselle Park and Brearley - in succession in the post-season to advance to Friday's sectional final where they will play at third-seeded Glen Ridge weather permitting at a time to be announced.
"It just happened that all three of the county teams were on our side of the bracket," said New Providence head coach Scott Murphy. "Today we knew we were facing a very defensive-minded team in Brearley and that they had only allowed three goals all season."
New Providence's plan of controlling play early paid off when Maddy Engelbrechtsen took a pass served over the top by Alana Ponte and scored 22 minutes into the first half.
That scored remained until Engelbrechtsen assisted Juliana DeGeorge with about 10 minutes remaining in the second half.
Senior goalie Erin Lamanna, buoyed by a defensive back four of Alexa Boyle, Nicole Fusco, Amy Maurer and Paola Salazar, stopped five shots in posting her 12th shutout of the season.
Brearley, which ended its season at 14-3-2, entered the game having shutout 16 opponents this season.
Since suffering a 2-0 loss to Johnson in the first round of the UCT on Oct 9, the Lady Pioneers have gone 7-2 and will enter the sectional final with a 13-7-1 record.
New Providence had advanced to the sectional semis by defeating fourth-seeded Roselle Park, 2-1, on Friday, Nov. 2. That victory saw freshman Kyra Trumbull score her first varsity goal and Engelbrechtsen snap a 1-1 tie with the game-winning goal with 17 minutes left in the second half.
Engelbrechtsen, a junior forward, leads New Providence in scoring with 15 goals and eight assists.
New Providence will be facing a team in Glen Ridge that is seeking its seventh straight sectional title. The Lady Pioneers last reached the final in 2013 when it bowed to the Lady Ridgers, 2-1.
New Providence won its last sectional crown in 2011 when it defeated Glen Ridge, 2-0, to earn its fourth straight championship.
"Its going to be a challenge and a big test but we're ready for it," said Murphy. "We haven't played into the second week of November in a while and that was a goal of ours. Now we're amending that goal to go out there and win on Friday."