MONTCLAIR, NJ - Top-seeded Montclair offered a huge test to Randolph and the Rams' state title hopes on Monday. But the Rams stood tall through regular time and into overtime to earn a heart-stopping 1-0 victory as Katja Brackelmanns-Puig scored the golden goal in overtime and sophomore goalie Rachel Fennell played the game of her life in net.
Hotly contested through regulation time, Montclair had the majority of the quality scoring chances, but it was anyone's game from the get-go. With a talented and aware Montclair defense stifling Brackelmanns-Puig in the offensive zone for most of the game, she broke free in overtime and beat the goalie low in the corner from just outside the box to send the Rams to the North 1, Group 4 Final.
“It was kind of messy,” said Brackelmanns-Puig after the game. “It was a little anticlimactic, but we were having so many chances. We were so close every time, and we were getting closer and closer and closer, and now we're here.”
But “here” is not somewhere Randolph would have been able to get to if it wasn't for the heroics of sophomore goalie Rachel Fennell. Her play in net was sublime. “Oh my gosh. She came up huge,” said senior center back Samantha Brener. “I thought at least five of those were going in.” The magnitude of her play wasn't lost on coach Colleen Suflay. “Unbelievable. She made three or four game-changing saves.”
With that many game-changing saves the game changed just enough to give Randolph the advantage, and they steadily gained momentum as they weathered the storm from Montclair and mounted their own attacks. Seniors Dana Shalit and Anna Conklin had chances on goal, but their missed opportunities only made the result just that much sweeter.
Randolph's defenders played no small part in the clean sheet for Randolph. Despite numerous saves by Fennell, no second chances found their way on net. Which speaks both to Randolph's defense as well as Fennell's excellent ball control. “Last year we played Montclair in the semi-finals also at our home field, so we know how great their offense is,” said senior defender Samantha Brener. We knew we had to come in strong. Every single defender had their best game of the season. I'm so proud of them.”
Randolph draws a 15-3-2 Livingston squad in the Final who beat Clifton to earn their berth. “We're pumped, we're ready,” said Fennell, still out of breath nearly a dozen minutes after the victory. “ We're just ready to take the state title.”