MOUNT OLIVE, NJ- Having met their foe twice before in 2019, the Randolph girls’ soccer team knew their game with Morris Knolls in the Morris County Tournament Semi-final would be a battle. After enduring regulation time and two OT sessions, the Lady Rams would prevail in the shootout when goalie Ellie Sciancalepore was the difference maker.
“We knew Knolls was a really good team and this would be a really difficult game,” said Captain Becca D’Egidio. “It was an exhausting game, but we got it done and the feeling of winning erases any pain we had during the game.”
The match started out with the possession game being relatively equal, although Knolls outshot the Rams during the first 20 minutes. But Randolph would light the scoreboard first, when Karen Hull put her team up 1-0 at the 22-minute mark.
Lauren Robles collected the ball around mid-field, and made a left-footed pass around a defender down the sideline to Hull. The senior striker collected the ball, turned the corner on her defender just outside the 18, and slipped the ball past the goalie who came out to try to make a sliding save.
But the Golden Eagles would get even just three minutes into the second half, when a penalty in the box gave them a Penalty Kick. They converted and the score was 1-1, making it anybody’s game.
From there, the intensity skyrocketed. What had already been a physical game became a desperate battle for every loose ball, sending bodies flying to the turf all over the field. Neither team was willing to give an inch; resulting in numerous penalties and numerous stoppages for trainer visits on the field for both teams.
For most of the second half, Knolls had the better scoring chances and controlled possession longer, but Randolph had what would be the equalizer in the end, Sciancalepore in net.
“This is the type of moment Ellie has been preparing herself for,” said Rams coach Colleen Suflay. “She has worked hard her whole career in practice, and out of practice, and she couldn’t wait for something like this to happen.”
She did not disappoint, putting on a ridiculous performance in stopping every shot that came her way, which is not what typically happens in PK’s.
“Her performance was a tribute to her character,” said Suflay. “She’s the kind of player who really thrives in this pressure.”
After making a diving save on the first Knolls shot, Randolph hit the crossbar on their first attempt. Sciancalepore was ready, and again made a diving save on Knolls next attempt.
The Rams then started converting their shots while their goalie continued to make saves. Claire Doto and Alyssa Alfieri converted their shots for the Rams, sandwiching another Randolph save. When Sciancalepore made her fourth straight save, that one sealed the game and the Rams stormed the field in celebration.
“As the time was winding down and PK’s were becoming more of a reality, I felt nothing but confidence,” said Sciancalepore. “I do not mean to sound cocky or overconfident in saying this, but I thoroughly understand the capabilities of the girls on my team. I knew my girls would do what needed to be done to move on to the next round, I knew that I had to step up and essentially, do my part.”
Coach Suflay praised her teams’ efforts, but was quick to make sure they didn’t lose focus on the bigger prize.
“I was proud of my team for their fight, and proud that they never retreated, and they never panicked,” said Suflay. “I told them to enjoy the moment, but then we have to get ready to move on and prepare for next Saturday.”
Randolph faces Kinnelon in the MCT finals, next Saturday Oct. 19. The game will be played at Roxbury at 7 PM.