Auerbacher’s shootout goal clinches Bernards’ trip to Group II final

BERNARDSVILLE — Before she jogged up from midfield to take what could have been the game-winning penalty kick for the Bernards High School girls soccer team, Maddy Auerbacher didn’t know if she could make the shot.

“I was really scared that I wasn’t going to make it and I knew that Ramsey is really good at penalty kicks. But I got a rush running up to it and I looked at the side I was going to shoot at, hit it, and made it,” Auerbacher said.

Her goal, along with three others in the shootout, gave Bernards the victory 2-2 (4-2 in shootout) over Ramsey Tuesday night in the NJSIAA Group II semifinals at Ridge High School. The Mountaineers will play Rumson-Fair Haven in Saturday’s Group II final at The College of New Jersey. Kickoff is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

After making her penalty kick, the entire Bernards team and a host of students and fans spilled onto the field and mobbed Auerbacher as the Mountaineers celebrated their first trip to a Group final.

“This is an amazing feeling,” Auerbacher said. “I thought I was going to break my leg because everyone was on top of me.”

Montana Sutton, Lucy Grey and Emily Maheras each scored on their penalty kick attempts for Bernards (20-3-1), and goalkeeper Nicole Sullivan didn’t even have to make a save in the shootout to ensure victory. Ramsey’s second and third shooters missed the net, the second of which hit the football crossbar just above the soccer crossbar.

The game went to overtime after Ramsey was the beneficiary of a questionable call late in regulation. In the 68th minute, a Rams player was pushed to the ground just outside of the 18-yard box and the referee called a foul, and with the foul came a free kick, which Ramsey’s Gabrielle Martone stepped up and lofted over Sullivan’s outstretched hands to tie the score at 2-2.

“After that goal, I told the girls that they were doing the right things. I didn’t want them to change what they were doing after the game was tied, they just had to keep fighting,” Bernards head coach Chris Habermas said. “It was a bad call, but they just needed to keep with it and not be thrown off the game.”

Bernards had taken leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the game, the first of which came in the 15th minute of play. Laura Galli worked her way through the Ramsey defense and into the box before sending a low shot past Rams goalkeeper Molly Barrow. The game remained 1-0 for only nine minutes, as Ramsey got even with some skill of their own.

Kelly Redl split two Bernards defenders and shrugged off a tackle just inside of the box before ripping a shot past Sullivan.

But the Mountaineers kept working hard and in the 30th minute, they regained the lead.

Bernards maneuvered the ball deep into Ramsey territory, and Barrow saved Kristin Coury’s initial shot, but the ball bounced right to Emily Maheras on the doorstep, and the sophomore didn’t miss the opportunity.

“It was back and forth, lots of chances both ways and I’m just happy for our girls. They put their heart and soul in this and this is one of the best teams that we’ve had in terms of togetherness and team play,” Habermas said. “They fight for each other and I’m just happy for them that they’re able to go through. This is a special moment for them.”

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