WESTFIELD, NJ — Faith Price’s seemingly perfect overtime strike first hit the bottom of the crossbar, then landed to cushion the inside of the left wall of the net. Scotch Plains-Fanwood ran out onto the field to start the dog pile, believing — along with nearly everyone else inside Gary Kehler Stadium — that it had just broke a scoreless deadlock to pull off a golden-goal victory in the 89th minute over archival Westfield.
And then the whistle blew.
While virtually everyone believed the ball had firmly crossed the goal line — and when the net moved — the officials deemed otherwise. The goal was called off, officially ruled as not having crossed the line, as Scotch Plains-Fanwood and Westfield had to settle for a hard-earned 0-0 tie after 100 minutes of soccer Thursday afternoon.
“It was ruled that it never crossed the line — although it hit the net,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Kevin Ewing. “The ref ruled that it didn’t go over the line, but we saw it hit the wheel and the netting moved. There’s no video instant replay, but the ref called it, and you’ve got to accept what was called.”
The call had Scotch Plains-Fanwood incensed, and there was even some confusion on the Westfield side.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a play like that before,” said Westfield head coach Alex Schimidt. “The ref said it hit both bars and went straight down, but never went in. Like any keeper should, Erin Harris just played it. I know Coach Ewing is not happy with it. I can only go by what the refs say. But I think a tie in this case is maybe well-deserved by each. I’d like to think that, it was a good battle, we’ll see them again.”
Though Scotch Plains-Fanwood walks away feeling it had a victory taken away, Thursday’s derby was certainly an intense showing of soccer between the two archrivals that hope to see each other once — perhaps twice — more this fall.
Raiders goal keeper Maya Kessler and the Blue Devils’ Erin Harris each made eight saves in the twin shutout. Both back lines played exceptionally well, while each team had sparse but threatening chances to score throughout the run of play. However, a victor was not to be, and both teams will now set their sights on a potential rematch in the Union County Tournament semifinals next weekend, provided that they both win their quarterfinal matchups this Saturday.
“Overall, this is that rivalry game that we keep telling the girls, you want to go to college, you don’t even experience something like this, with two towns right next to each other,” said Schmidt. “We’ll play them in counties hopefully, and we might get them in states as well.”
Of course, if these two teams see each other for a next time, there will have to be a winner — it will come in tournament play, either in counties, states, or both. Each team had some chances to separate themselves on Thursday, too, but it just was not meant to be.
Westfield had a great shot at jumping ahead right before halftime, but a shot with 27 seconds remaining in the first half banged off the crossbar to keep the scoreless deadlock in tact. Scotch Plains-Fanwood then had great pressure on the Westfield goal less than a minute out of halftime, but the Raiders too came up empty-handed, having two shots hit the woodwork but never crossing the line.
“That was just a typical intense Scotch Plains-Westfield game,” said Ewing. “Their girls played well; our girls played well. Both teams are going after it, and it’s just an intense game.”
The goose eggs on the scoreboard can largely be attributed not only to both teams’ keeper, but also the stout backlines of both state powerhouses.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s defense, led by Gabby Aloe, Leah Klurman, and Ashley Defrancesco, was up to the task against an always dangerous Blue Devil attack. Westfield’s defensive third, occupied by Rutgers commit Faith Dobosiewicz, Julia Johnson-Milstein, Ana Fowler, and holding mid Sofia Carayannopoulos, also did a tremendous job of neutralizing the Raiders’ dangerous strikers and counterattack.
“That’s what we’ve been working on — trying to get in behind the defense,” said Schmidt. “We’re shifting things around a little bit, and Faith in the back gives us a little power, height, and strength. She reads the game really well. We did a pretty good job of slowing down their counterattacks. Of course, they’re going to get a couple times, but for the most part, we did a pretty good job of frustrating them. That’s the goal.”
The score may not have been settled Thursday, but in all likelihood, they will get the chance to settle it soon enough. So gear up, because a showdown between the two in counties next week could be yet another legendary Scotch Plains-Westfield showdown.
“Obviously if things go right on Saturday, then we both play each other in the semifinals again, within a week of each other,” Schmidt said. “It was really important today for us to say, listen, let’s give them something to think about.”