RANDOLPH, NJ- 19-2-1... In the 2014 season, the Randolph girls soccer team earned themselves a record that most teams would be jealous of. They knocked down virtually every opponent put in front of them for 21 games, en route to becoming Co-Champions of the Morris County tournament, climbing to a ranking of #9 in the state, and earning the number one seed in the state tournament.
It took the #3 ranked team in the state, the Mounties from Montclair, to derail their train. Not to mention that the Mounties had some extra incentive, since they were the tournaments’ number one seed last season when Randolph knocked them out in the semifinal game.
Montclair came out as the aggressor and controled the ball in Randolph half of the field for most of the first 10 minutes. The Rams, known for their spectacular defensive play in front of the goal, stonewalled Montclair behind seniors Stephanie Robinson and Hannah Stepan.
After settling in, the Lady Rams began to apply some pressure of their own. Seniors Maria Fairfield and Katya Brackelmanns-Puig worked the ball in the middle of the field, while Kaitlyn Robinson rushed it up the sidelines, although they were unable to generate shots on net.
The rest of the half was played mostly between the 18’s, with both sides coming within inches of generating good opportunities, only to be thwarted at the last second. Randolph goalie Lori Bendick staved off a scare, when she jumped to punch a shot just inches over the crossbar.
Late in the half, Randolph had a golden opportunity when Brackelmanns-Puig found Gillian McConnell streaking down the left side and fed her a lead pass. However, the Rams were victimized by a phantom off sides call, even though a Montclair defender was clearly 5 to 10 yards behind McConnell (see photo). The half ended knotted up 0-0.
Randolph was clearly the aggressor to open the second half. They pushed the ball deep into Montclair territory on multiple occasions, challenging but just missing chances. McConnell and Fairfield had shots go just wide of the net, and Junior Esther Wellman hammered one from 30 yards out that sailed over the crossbar.
At the 24 minute mark of the second half Montclair struck. After a rush down the right sideline, a cross pass into the box and s one timer gave the Mounties a 1-0 lead.
Randolph responded by turning up the pressure, as their defense pinched further and further up the field to try and force the ball into the offense of zone. They moved the ball well, finding each other in space, but were unable to make that final pass that would result in a shot on net.
With the clock winding down under four minutes, the defense pressed even further up field. Montclair got a break and took advantage, getting behind the defense and converting again on a pass across the net and a one timer.
For the game, Bendik made 6 saves, and the goalie for Montclair only made 1 official save.
19–2-1. An incredible season and an amazing record for a team that the season before, graduated four girls currently playing Division I college soccer. A team that only had four seniors this year. A team that has young talent with two straight years of championship game experience. A team that clearly has a very bright future.