SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — Once again, Lizzie Ley saved the day.
For the second straight round, Scotch Plains-Fanwood found itself deadlocked with just minutes left in a state tournament game. And again, it was Ley who punched the Raiders’ ticket to the next round.
Ley‘s corner kick with 13:25 remaining in regulation curved right into the goal and severed a 0-0 tie, as No. 4-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood got by No. 5 Piscataway, 1-0, in the North 2, Group 4 sectional quarterfinal in unseasonably warm temperatures at Wexler Field Friday afternoon. That score came amid 15 other corners and 11 shots for the Raiders, who got to this round after Ley’s first game-winner on Tuesday.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood advances to play at No. 1 Bridgewater-Raritan on Election Day, Nov. 6.
“That’s a pretty crazy shot, and we’ll take it,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Kevin Ewing. “You just gotta survive and advance. It was a tough game, Piscataway played well, and our girls fought well. That’s all you can ask.”
Ewing's team certainly would have liked to capitalize on the many other corner kick chances they got all afternoon. But in the state tournament, where it’s just about survival and advancement, all that matters is that the Raiders were able to finish just one of their 15 corners.
With the thought of overtime starting to creep into a packed Wexler Field, Scotch Plains-Fanwood was awarded yet another corner in the 67th minute, and this time, the Raiders capitalized on it.
Ley took the kick from the left flag on the east-facing end, and launched a line-drive ball towards the left post that had a lot of curve on it. The ball entered the box untouched, and Piscataway goal keeper Dana Ogilvie, who made 13 saves, came out to try and save it. But the ball eluded Ogilvie and landed past the goal line and just in front of the post, giving Scotch Plains-Fanwood the 1-0 lead it needed to book a bus for Bridgewater Tuesday afternoon.
That lead and prior scoreless deadlock was kept safe by Raiders keeper Maya Kessler, who notched five saves for her 10th shutout of the season. Meanwhile, the Raiders’ backline was again its usual dominating self. It featured combinations of Gabby Aloe, Maggie Traina, Leah Klurman, and Ashley and Rebecca Lancaster, and did a great job of limiting a potent Piscataway attack.
One of those saves by Kessler came in the 62nd minute on a wide-open shot from Mary Wojcik at the left post that the Raiders’ junior tipped away to preserve the tie.
Piscataway (11-4-3) threatened with a couple other scary runs throughout the afternoon – primarily in the second half – and entered this do-or-die game hot. The Chiefs were Greater Middlesex County Tournament finalists and aside from a 1-0 loss to East Brunswick in that game, hadn’t been defeated in exactly one calendar month.
The Chiefs featured 21-goal scorer Kaitlyn Zeeb and a backline that had allowed just three goals entering this match, but Scotch Plains-Fanwood was able to survive both of those Piscataway strengths.
“We knew Piscataway was a good team,” Ewing said. “They had a defensive game plan for most of the game, and they’re good. They have some good players on their team, and we had opportunities that we just didn’t cash in. That’s because of what Piscataway was doing.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood is rolling right now with five straight wins and Tuesday, it will face its strongest opponent of the year and possibly the top team in the state. Bridgewater-Raritan is currently ranked ninth in the country and second in New Jersey by TopDrawerSoccer, though it just barely got by a No. 9-seed Westfield team, 2-1, that the Raiders have beaten twice this year.