RANDOLPH, NJ- After graduating nine seniors from one of the more successful teams in the past few years, the Randolph Girls Soccer team had a lot of new faces to integrate to the varsity level in 2020. However, strong leadership from four key seniors and the always great coaching from Colleen Suflay saw them find their own success, as they claimed the state sectional championship with a 2-0 win over Mt. Olive. (SEE Link at end of story for extra game photos )
“A large part of our success came on the heels of the captains working hard to keep the team connected during the uncertain months,” said Suflay. “Claire and Kiki, along with fellow seniors- Olivia and Caitlyn recognized that making the most of their time was going to be essential.”
The Lady Rams jumped out in front early when senior captain Kiki Iannacconi scored on a shot from the left of the goal just outside the 18 stunning both teams and even herself with the goal.
“I had about three defenders in front of me, and I thought to myself just hit it as hard as you can and aim for the corner,” said Iannacconi. “Somehow the ball maneuvered through all the defenders and found the net. I was in disbelief and a bit shocked, but it felt so good to get that first goal.”
Mt. Olive thought they got the tying goal about five minutes later, however it was waived-off since it came on an indirect kick and the Mauraders kicked it straight into the goal with no other player touching it first which is illegal.
Randolph controlled play for the majority of the first half, creating chances and pressuring the net on the offensive end. They had a bit of a scare however, when leading scorer and team captain Claire Doto went down with an apparent shoulder injury and spent about 15 minutes on the sidelines.
“I knew what happened, this has happened a few times before so on the sidelines I called my mom and told her I needed my brace,” said Doto. “I got the brace and got back in there for the rest of the game. There was no way I was missing this game and leaving my team without my presence on the field.”
With the half ending at 1-0, the Mauraders picked up the pressure dramatically in the middle of the second half. For a 15-minute stretch they had five corners and one indirect kick from just outside the 18, but the Rams turned them all away.
“Allie Kuridza was like a wall on defense, she is a presence in the back we count on and makes the rest of us feel comfortable back there,” said senior goalkeeper Caitlyn Olive, who made five saves in the first half before giving way to Kuridza, who made four saves in the second. “It feels amazing to get this win and getting the shutout - you couldn’t ask for anything more in states.”
After weathering that storm, the Rams began to counter a bit and press for the insurance goal. Then with just under seven minutes remaining, Doto really made her presence felt.
Doto pushed the ball up the left side of the field, making a long run and beating a few defenders on the way. From the far-left wing she took a shot that went wide, but the ball was collected by right wide midfielder Elise Soto on the opposite side of the net.
Soto put the ball right back into the box where Olivia Mancuso was all alone in front. She took a touch and placed the ball under the goalkeeper’s arm for the insurance goal and a 2-0 lead.
“Elise sent the ball into the box and played it right to my feet; I took one touch, saw an open spot, and put it in the back of the net,” said Mancuso. “It felt absolutely amazing, a feeling I have never had before. I was so excited and so happy to help the team.”
The Rams spent the final six minutes clearing the ball from harms way until the final buzzer sounded.
“The key to victory today was the girls personal preparation,” said Suflay. “The team worked hard all-season analyzing video, clipping high and low lights, journaling, scouting teams, connecting, creating goals and working hard to put in the extra time that the social component of school could not provide. We were fortunate to play our best games at the end- when they counted the most.”
EXTRA Game Photos CLICK HERE