RANDOLPH, NJ- Playing a Morristown team they had already beaten twice by a combined 8-0 during the season, many would have expected an easy win for the Randolph Girls soccer team in the NJSIAA state playoff quarterfinal round. However, after 100 minutes of play, the Lady Rams were a bit lucky to escape with a victory on PK’s, thanks in large part to their star goalie Ellie Sciancalepore.
"It’s not easy to beat a team 3 times, especially when they are as talented as Morristown,” said Sciancalepore. “At the end of the day, we were nowhere near perfect, but we battled for every ball, we hustled, and did not give up. With hard work and grit, we are able to play another day.”
When the game started, play was relatively equal for most of the first half, although Morristown did have a slight edge in the possession battle. Despite that, it was the Lady Rams who had the lead at halftime, courtesy of a goal by Kiki Iannacconi.
After throw-in directly in front of the Morristown bench, Claire Dodo sent the ball into the box from the right side of the field. Iannacconi came in from the opposite side, collected the ball, and planted it in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead with five minutes left in the first half.
Out of the halftime locker room, the Colonials wasted no time getting the equalizer as they scored on a scramble in the box just over two minutes in. With bodies in front of the net screening her vision, Sciancalepore did not even see the shot until it was too late, and the score was tied 1-1.
That goal sparked a dramatic shift in momentum, as Morristown took control of the game from there, and spent the large majority of the second-half in the offensive end of the field.
The Colonials pushed the Rams back on their heels and continue to fire shots towards the Lady Rams net, where Sciancalepore made save after save.
On one scramble, Sciancalepore was caught a bit outside her net and the ball slipped past her into the crease. But, defenseman Brenna McConnell was there to make a save, swooping in and clearing the ball out of harms’ way.
For the final 30 minutes of regulation, the game had the feel that a Colonials "go-ahead goal" was only a matter of time. Thanks to the Lady Rams defense, it was not to be.
“Keeping the ball out of our net came down to doing what we do best, which is organizing, commutating, and following our intuition to cut-off key passes and crosses leading to shot attempts,” said Sciancalepore. “We did not let their goal or their spurts of momentum get to us. We continued to stay poised and locked down our end of the field to put us into a comfortable position at the end of the game.”
In overtime, the Colonials onslaught continued. Playing without their top two scorers and realizing they were struggling to generate offense, the Lady Rams had shifted into more of a defensive formation. At this point of the game, they seemed to be relying on their senior line of defense and their star goalie to ride them through OT and into PK’s.
If that was the strategy, it worked. Having one of the top goalies in the state certainly gave them the advantage both mentally and physically when it came time for the shootout. Ultimately Randolph prevailed, scoring 4 on the PK to Morristown’s 2.
“Getting this win during such an intense game felt great,” said Sciancalepore. “We couldn’t be happier about the result and we now look forward to West Orange on Monday.”
Randolph will have their hands full once again in their semifinal game, when they play at home on Monday Nov. 4 against a strong West Orange team who comes to town with a 15-3 record.