BASKING RIDGE, NJ -- The pressurized situation was not unfamiliar to Heather Cortese. Cortese's PK was the lone score as fourth-seeded Ridge defeated fifth-seeded Watchung Hills, 1-0, in the quarterfinal round of the Somerset County Tournament on Saturday.
In the latter stages of the first half, Watchung Hills was called for a hand ball. Cortese was given the responsibility of taking the shot.
“Just very tough to put into words the disappointment,” said WHRHS head coach Brian Figueriedo. “When you lose on a PK that you had no control over, there’s not much to say that’s going to make anyone feel better. I thought we pressed them tremendously in the second half, but couldn’t find the equalizer. They are tough to breakdown in the back, and found a way to hold on. “
"I've been practicing PKs for a while," Cortese said. "I took one against Westfield two years ago. Once I get up to the ball I just take a deep breath before taking the shot."
In the 2017 Section 2, Group 4 semifinals, Cortese, then just a 10th-grader, converted the deciding PK in a shootout to advance Ridge past Westfield en route to a state Group 4 championship.
Ridge is in the running for a championship now, on the county level, thanks to Cortese's pressure shot, strong play by Ridge's back line and the airtight work of goalkeepers Olivia Pikiell and Allison Miscia, who each played one half on Saturday's shutout.
"It's all about peaking at the right time and learning and growing from the mistakes you might have made earlier in the season," said Ridge head coach Katie Donahue. "We tried to take care of the ball and emphasize moving the ball and connecting with one another."
Ridge (8-6-1) will play at top-seeded Pingry in the SCT semifinal round on Wednesday.