Category Archives: Girls Soccer

Tavormina led Bishop Ahr to the top

Heading into the 2013 season, Bishop Ahr High School girls soccer coach Jim Tavormina knew that he had a solid group on his hands. What he did not know was that he’d be at the helm of the team that would capture the school’s first state championship, using a near-1000-minute scoreless streak in the regular season to set it up.

“Our defense just seemed to gel this season; the girls just worked hard and stayed with it and we had an exceptional group this year,” Tavormina said. “The girls do all the work and they make me look good.”

Bishop Ahr (17-2-2) shut out Immaculate Heart 1-0 in the Non-Public A State Final, adding the icing to the cake of a dominant season.

Tavormina is The Home News Tribune’s Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.

“It was huge for the girls and the program itself to win that game,” Tavormina said. “We went in there with a lot of confidence and the girls weren’t scared at all. It was their time.”

One of his four-year standouts, midfielder Alexa Povelaitis, said that Tavormina was a coach she loved playing for, not only because of the results on the field.

“He’s motivational for us and helps us to get through the doubt and uncertainty,” she said. “He makes us better and he’s always there for us when we may have a rough game.”

After allowing one goal in a 1-0 loss to Old Bridge on Sept. 10, the Trojans didn’t allow another ball to cross the goal line until the Greater Middlesex Conference semifinals against East Brunswick on Halloween.

But after that defeat, Bishop Ahr refused to lose again, going on a run for the ages through the state tournament. In the first two rounds, the Trojans needed penalty kicks to beat St. John Vianney and perennial state-power Pingry, and yet another shutout over Holy Cross put them into the Non-Public A State Final against IHA. Tavormina said that playing a non-conference game before the GMCT helped in his team’s preparation for their deep postseason run.

“We played Freehold Borough on Oct. 22 and beat them 1-0, and that was a big confidence boost for us towards the end of the season,” he said. “And we did penalty kicks every single practice, when the girls were nice and tired. Let’s face it: when you go into penalty kicks, it’s after 100 minutes and you’re dead tired, so we were pretty confident in those situations and we thought we’d have a good chance of winning every one of them.”

Tavormina, who is flanked by two assistant coaches during every game and practice, said that he couldn’t have done it without their help. Ernie Tenny, who’s been with Tavormina for all seven years at Bishop Ahr, and first-year coach Scott Laulette worked with the Trojans to get them prepared for anything they’d see this season.

“I’m so happy for the girls and the coaching staff and we did everything you can do in the summer to get prepared. Every day we worked together and we saw the girls grow from the beginning of the season; they played with more confidence and we kept it positive,” Tavormina said.

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Rosa a reluctant star for East Brunswick

East Brunswick's Sydney Rosa, the 2013 Player of the Year. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

East Brunswick’s Sydney Rosa, the 2013 Player of the Year. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

While her head coach believes that there’s a storybook script for the career of Sydney Rosa, the East Brunswick High School soccer star just wants to keep getting better every game and every season she plays.

But one could argue that there is something special going on when Rosa steps on the field when the stage is at its biggest. As a sophomore in 2012, Rosa netted the game-winning goal in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final as the Bears captured their 27th county title. This season, as a junior, she topped her own heroics, scoring a pair of second-half goals to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory and yet another conference crown.

Rosa is The Home News Tribune’s All-Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

“The best part about coaching her is just how she finds a way to score the big goals in the big spots,” East Brunswick head coach Kevin Brady said. “For her to step up in the biggest stages, she defies movie-like story telling. Coaching a kid like that is what a coach dreams of.”

After notching 15 goals last season, all while fighting Wegener’s granulomatosis — a disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels, that she said she’s now completely recovered from — Rosa found the back of the net 20 times this year.

She scored in 15 different games, including seven in the postseason, as East Brunswick captured the GMCT title for a second-straight season. Rosa did all she could to get the Bears into a sectional final, registering three points in three state tournament matches in early November, but East Brunswick fell 3-1 to Hunterdon Central in the semifinals of the Central Group IV Tournament.

“It was a truly incredible season with the team and by far the most chemistry we’ve had with each other in my three seasons,” Rosa said. “It was icing on the cake to win GMCs and we wanted to get that streak back and we just accomplished our goals we had set out in the preseason.”

Against Old Bridge in the GMCT Final, East Brunswick trailed 1-0 at halftime before Rosa went to work, winning a pair of one-on-one battles, putting her squad on her back in the process. When asked if she preferred the winning-goals in the GMCT in her sophomore or junior year, Rosa said every goal is special.

“I think they’re on par with each other, because I like to think of every game as different from the prior one. It’s just great to score the winning goal in any game, but to do it in such a big stage, that was awesome,” Rosa said. “I love every goal I score and I just love to be able to help my team; that’s my job as a forward, to score, and when I don’t, I get down on myself. My teammates put faith in me to score, so I just go out and do my best.”

Brady said that since Rosa came into his program three years ago, she’s done nothing but improve, under such extreme expectations.

“Since Sydney came in as a freshman, has been the kind of player who opens your eyes to amazing possibilities,” Brady said. “After an incredible freshman year, we had such high expectations for her last year, but because of her illness that was challenged. But she bounced back this year and exceeded even our high expectations.”

Bishop Ahr girls soccer team wins state title

Bishop Ahr's Dana Desantis (4) and Immaculate Heart's Camille Didio (10) vie for control of the ball on Wednesday in Ewing. Photo by: Tom Spader

Bishop Ahr’s Dana Desantis (4) and Immaculate Heart’s Camille Didio (10) vie for control of the ball on Wednesday in Ewing. Photo by: Tom Spader

EWING — After playing three heart-pounding games in the Non-Public South A Tournament, the Bishop Ahr High School girls soccer team put together one of its finest performances of the season Wednesday night.

Jillian Vassallo’s 47th minute goal was the contest’s lone marker and Bishop Ahr (17-2-2) captured its first state title in school history, 1-0 over Immaculate Heart Academy in the NJSIAA Non-Public A Final at The College of New Jersey.

“This is a great moment; these girls have been playing like this all year and nobody believed in us,” Bishop Ahr head coach Jim Tavormina said. “But as soon as Jill struck that ball, I knew it was going in and I knew once she scored, we had to hunker down a bit, and we lost possession there for a while, but we bent and didn’t break and finished up strong.”

The Trojans had never even appeared in a state final prior to this one, but the stage was certainly not too big for them on a chilly evening. Vassallo, who’s been Bishop Ahr’s top scorer all season long, turned away from an IHA defender just outside of the 18-yard box and ripped a low line drive past Taylor Lupi. It was just the third goal that mighty Immaculate Heart (19-2-1) had yielded all year.

“We wanted to ramp up the pressure on them in the second half and we tried to keep the ball in their zone and we got the advantage and I just took the shot and it went in,” Vassallo said. “As soon as I kicked it, I knew it was going in and it’s just such a great feeling to win a state final like this.”

Senior goalkeeper Brianna Foster, who’s been a rock in the net for Bishop Ahr in 2013, shrugged off a nasty collision in the first half and played hobbled for the remainder of the contest. She made five saves to pitch her 16th shutout of the season.

“The support of the fans gave me some energy and I knew it was my last game and I knew I had to go out with a victory,” Foster said. “This is amazing and we weren’t sure what to expect, but we gave it everything we had and I’m so proud of this team.”

IHA ramped up the pressure in the second half after Vassallo’s goal, but every time it looked like the Blue Eagles were going to come up with an equalizer, Foster was there to keep it out. The back line of defense of Cali Clarke, Claire Dundon, Sarah Harmon and Alexa Vassiliadis thwarted every real shot that Immaculate Heart had.

The Trojans certainly fed off the energy from the hundreds of fans that made the trip from Edison to Ewing, paying their own way for buses and game tickets, as the classmates were loud and engaged throughout the contest, chanting and screaming until the final whistle.

“These fans are the best,” Tavormina said. “These kids are great motivation for the girls and the coaches as well. You have to love them.”

Foster and the stingy back line of defense yielded just five goals all season long, with a shutout streak of more than 900 minutes during the regular season.

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.”

Shore defeats Metuchen in shootout

Metuchen's Melissa Chura battles for the ball against Shore Thursday. Photo by: Bob Bielk

Metuchen’s Melissa Chura battles for the ball against Shore Thursday. Photo by: Bob Bielk

METUCHEN — After getting an early equalizer and earning the majority of the scoring chances in the game’s second half, the Metuchen High School girls soccer team came up one penalty kick short of a sectional title on Thursday.

Jesse Egan’s penalty kick goal in the sixth round of the shootout was the difference as third-seeded Shore Regional upended Metuchen 2-1 (4-3 in shootout) to capture the NJSIAA Central Group I title.

The teams’ played scoreless through two 10-minute overtime periods and the allotted five-player shootout round but couldn’t be separated. In the sudden death round of the shootout, Egan calmly stepped up and beat Metuchen goalkeeper Emily Buchanan to the right side of the net and Shore goalkeeper Katie Colaguori stoned Emily Corson to give the Blue Devils their second straight Central Group I crown.

“I just stayed confident and I knew my skills and I was just calm and I knocked it through,” Egan said.

Colaguori made three consecutive saves in the shootout after Metuchen had scored on their first three shots. Devon Philbin had a chance to win it for the top-seeded Bulldogs but her shot was turned aside by Colaguori.

The game certainly didn’t look like it was going to reach a shootout, as Metuchen ramped up the pressure in the first of two overtime periods. Corson had the best of the chances when she made a full-field run after Emily Costello headed out a corner kick, but Colaguori came out of the net to thwart the chance. In the second of the two overtimes, Gabby Cyran nearly ended it, but her shot clanged off the crossbar and Shore was able to clear the box.

“You cannot take away the girls’ effort today or all season on just one shot or one save,” Metuchen head coach Val Gazda said. “We just came up short; we had opportunities, but it wasn’t to be. The senior class has nothing to be ashamed of. This is the first group in my 24 years that has won 20 games in a season. I think this is one of the best teams of the one’s I’ve coached.”

Corson got Metuchen on the board and knotted the score in the 16th minute after playing give-and-go with Taylor Hueston down the right wing. Hueston played a perfect through-ball onto Corson’s feet and the senior didn’t miss it, knocking in her 24th goal of the season. Shore had scored first 12 minutes earlier when Samantha McDonough beat Buchanan to the far post.

From there on, the two teams played to a stalemate, neither earning a quality look at the net until overtime began. But the field began to tilt in Metuchen’s favor once overtime began, even though the Bulldogs (20-2-1) couldn’t cash in.

In the shootout’s first three rounds, Megan Haugh, Alexa Craft-Zaletel and Costello all beat Colaguori, while Buchanan kept Shannon Bonner’s shot out of the net. Colaguori was Shore’s fifth shooter, but she missed the net, forcing the game into sudden death.

“Before the game I told the girls that win or lose, they should walk off the field with their heads held high and that’s the hardest thing. We put our best foot forward and that’s all you can I ask for,” Gazda said.

Red Devils able to seize momentum in 2nd half

Hunterdon Central's Yota Sfondouris (8) and East Brunswick's Sydney Rosa get tangled up during the first half on Monday. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Hunterdon Central’s Yota Sfondouris (8) and East Brunswick’s Sydney Rosa get tangled up during the first half on Monday. Photo by: Jason Towlen

EAST BRUNSWICK — Within the first three minutes of the second half of their Central Group IV semifinal match against East Brunswick Monday, the Hunterdon Central High School girls soccer team turned a tie score into a two-goal advantage, seizing all of the momentum in the process.

Christine Tack and Gabi Provenzano found the back of the net two minutes apart in a stunning turn of events just after the intermission to lift the third-seeded Red Devils past second-seeded East Brunswick 3-1 and into the sectional final on Thursday.

Hunterdon Central will play Skyland Conference rival Montgomery, a 4-0 winner Monday over Manalapan.

East Brunswick’s Sydney Rosa tied the score at 1 in the 25th minute, working down the right wing and scoring from near the end line on a shot that went in off the far post, but Hunterdon Central wasn’t fazed. Tack’s goal came just 29 seconds into the second half, and served as a big lift to her squad.

“We talked about trying to get the ball wide and to the end line, because we felt that was a place we were the most dangerous in the first half,” Hunterdon Central head coach Jeannine Calhoun said. “Tack made a far-post run and she actually had run past the ball, but she was able to get back and turn her hips, with her back to goal, was a pretty nice play.”

Moments later, Hunterdon Central got a bit of luck when East Brunswick’s goalkeeper Alex Kalafor left the net to challenge a long run down the left wing, but the ball squirted through to the middle of the box where Provenzano was waiting. The freshman didn’t waste any time, blasting the loose ball into the net to put the game out of reach.

“I’m just thrilled with the way we played the last 20 minutes of the first half and the way we came out in the second half,” Calhoun said. “We talked about not letting a great team like East Brunswick hang around and getting two goals in the first three minutes of the second half was certainly a way to do that.”

For Hunterdon Central, winning in regulation was something it hadn’t done in its previous three games, dating back to the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament Final. Calhoun said she thinks that only having to play the required 80 minutes Monday will help on Thursday, when it will see Montgomery for the third time this season.

“That was the first thing we said to the girls after the game ‘Thank you for not going to overtime,’” she said. “It’s been three draining games, so it was nice to do it in regulation and that’ll put us in a better place in terms of fatigue and freshness for Thursday.”

Kaitlin Greenstein gave Hunterdon Central the lead in the 21st minute when she banged home a shot from outside the box that Kalafor couldn’t handle. But four minutes later, Rosa bailed Kalafor out.

For the Bears, the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament champions, and head coach Kevin Brady, there was no sense in hanging their heads after the game.

“At this juncture of the season, every goal takes you closer to the end of the season. But as I told them after the game, there’s no team I would rather be coaching in an elimination game down 3-1. This team showed why in the second half,” he said. “I always believed in the guts and the heart of my team. We were gutsy from minute one to minute 80 and their hearts of champions showed in the closing minutes.”

Metuchen girls soccer shuts out Middlesex

METUCHEN — Heading into their Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament quarterfinal match against Bishop Ahr last month, the Metuchen High School girls soccer team hadn’t lost in 2013 and hadn’t allowed more than two goals in a game all season.

But the Trojans scored four times en route to a 4-1 victory, knocking Metuchen out of the conference tournament and shifting all of their focus onto the state tournament.

Consider the focus restored in the week since their lone defeat. The Bulldogs played Red Division contender Monroe to a 1-1 draw on Halloween and in their first Central Group I match, toppled ninth-seeded Middlesex 5-0 Thursday afternoon. The sectional tournament’s top seed will next play fifth-seeded Florence in next Monday’s semifinals.

Metuchen head coach Val Gazda said her squad knew that if they slipped up and didn’t play their best soccer, that a loss would send them into a winter of wondering what could have been.

Instead of leaving the outcome in question, the Bulldogs sent an all-out assault on the Middlesex net, launching 28 shots at Katlyn Schweyher in the contest.

Alexa Craft-Zaletel finished with a hat trick and Emily Corson added to her stellar senior season with a goal of her own. Katharine Chura rounded out the scoring for Metuchen (19-1-1).

“We focused and were up 4-0 at the half and I told them that they needed to stay with the game plan,” Gazda said. “We worked all week on specific things and it was definitely a team effort today. We put things together that we’ve been working on and we capitalized.”

Middlesex couldn’t get any offense started against an experienced back line for Metuchen, and goalkeeper Emily Buchanan wasn’t tested in the game. But, throughout the contest, Gazda was quick to pull players off the field for substitutes, not willing to let the Blue Jays (6-15) get back into it.

“The kids know that they can’t slack, and if they do, I have someone else on the bench to replace them. There is zero tolerance for packing it in when we get up,” Gazda said.

Gazda, who earned her 300th coaching victory in the season opener, made it known that losing to Bishop Ahr was a bit of a wake-up call for her bunch. But, even with a conference title out of reach, she was pleased with how the Bulldogs have responded since the loss.

“Bishop Ahr was an excellent team; there was no way you can take that away from them. They play in an upper division and they play a fast-paced game and it was a good learning tool for us, because our kids didn’t put our heads down after that game,” she said. “We learned from it and we came back to tie Monroe after that loss, a team that’s very good in their own right, that was part of the whole process for us.”

Standing between Metuchen and a sectional title is Florence, who was a 3-0 winner over Highland Park earlier Thursday.

“We need to execute very well and just need to take shots,” she said. “We need to set the tone and get it done.”

East Brunswick girls successfully defend GMCT crown

East Brunswick celebrates its first goal against Old Bridge on Saturday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

East Brunswick celebrates its first goal against Old Bridge on Saturday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

WOODBRIDGE — With their backs against the wall, the East Brunswick High School girls soccer team turned to their most inspirational player for a much needed boost. Trailing rival Old Bridge 1-0 at halftime, Sydney Rosa took over, scoring a pair of second-half goals to lift the top-seeded Bears to the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament title in a 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon at Nicholas A. Priscoe Stadium.

Rosa — who has battled Wegener’s granulomatosis, a disorder that causes inflammation of blood vessels, since her freshman season — got the Bears back even in the 45th minute when she took advantage of a bouncing ball in the Old Bridge box and beat goalkeeper Alley Mauer.

But Rosa was not done. In the 62nd minute, after Gabby Sachs worked the ball down the middle of the pitch, stopped on a dime and laid out a perfect pass to a streaking Rosa, the junior dribbled for 5 yards and launched a rocket over Mauer’s hands to put the Bears up for good.

“This feels great,” Rosa said. “We got down at halftime but we were ready and we kept our spunk up and everyone played as hard as we could. The first goal got our spirits back up; some people have doubted us this year and once we got that goal, we said to play it like it was back to 0-0 and we just wanted to get that second one.”

Old Bridge had taken the lead in the 8th minute when Ashley Cafarella pounced on a loose ball and tapped it past East Brunswick goalkeeper Alex Kalafor. The second-seeded Knights held the majority of the possession in the first half, but were only able to come away with the one goal.

“We did a lot of backing off in the first half. We kept backing into a lot of Old Bridge scoring chances. In that midfield area, they were able to keep possession for a long time and we just tried to force them out,” East Brunswick head coach Kevin Brady said. “They had one goal in the first half and they could have had three. There were too many balls bouncing around in our box.”

After intermission, where the Bears regrouped and focused their energy on finding an equalizer, East Brunswick dominated the possession and got the better of the scoring chances. Ellie DiLiberto was aggressive in pursuit throughout the contest and a slew of Bears put pressure on Mauer and the Old Bridge defense throughout the second 40 minutes.

Old Bridge was unable to defeat East Brunswick for a second time this season, after winning 2-1 on Oct. 17, for the program’s first victory against the Bears since 2006. Mauer did what she could to will her team to victory, making five saves and stepping up in a big spot late in the second half when the Bears threatened to extend their lead.

With the victory, the Bears have now won 28 of the 35 GMCT titles, and successfully defended their 2012 crown. But, Rosa knew that it wouldn’t be easy, especially since the two teams had split a pair of regular-season meetings, with each team winning on each other’s home field.

“When you win something, it’s hard to keep it,” Rosa said. “Our main goal coming in this year was to defend that title and now it’s back where it belongs, in East Brunswick.”

Old Bridge girls secure spot in final with win over South Brunswick

EAST BRUNSWICK — With their biggest rival already having secured a spot in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament Final, the Old Bridge High School girls soccer team took care of their own business, edging South Brunswick 2-1 in the semifinals of the GMCT Thursday at East Brunswick’s Jay Doyle Field.

The second-seeded Knights will meet top-seeded East Brunswick on Saturday (2 p.m.) in Woodbridge for the title.

Old Bridge got the game’s first goal in the 35th minute after dominating possession for the better part of the game’s first half, when Christina Shannon tapped home a well-placed corner kick from Tara Durstewitz.

They’d double their lead 10 minutes after intermission when Lauren Coletti scooped up a loose ball in front and knocked it past South Brunswick goalkeeper Sydney Schneider.

“I think sometimes that takes a little bit of an edge off to score first; the last game we played them was an overtime game and so we know they’re a serious team and at this point, it’s all hands on deck,” Old Bridge head coach Rob Lozzi said. “When you get out to that lead it takes a little bit of pressure off and then you can play loose. Once we got up 2-0, we played much looser.”

But third-seeded South Brunswick refused to go away quietly, putting Old Bridge on its heels for the final 15 minutes of the contest. The Vikings finally cracked Alley Mauer and cut the lead in half when Rebecca Michael converted a free kick from Cagnie Antzak in the 75th minute. For the final five minutes, South Brunswick pushed everyone forward, trying desperately for an equalizer, but Mauer stoned Brielle Errico with a diving save to her right to preserve the lead.

“We just tried to control the ball in the air and not let it bounce and it got dangerous when the ball bounced,” Lozzi said. “I thought that the kids played smart and finished opportunities and I give South Brunswick a lot of credit. But our kids stayed tough and finished the opportunities we got.”

With the victory, Old Bridge will get a third crack at East Brunswick this season. In the most recent meeting, the Knights ended a nearly seven-year drought against their local rival by winning 2-1, but Lozzi knows that it may be a nail-biter come Saturday.

“We know that against East Brunswick, the game comes down to who makes the lesser number of mistakes,” he said. “Each team is capable of taking advantage of those mistakes. We’re evenly matched. It comes down to which team doesn’t make mistakes. There aren’t going to be a ton of chances at the net, so we need to capitalize on them when they’re present.”

Antczak’s goal in OT lifts South Brunswick to win over Monroe

Monroe's Stephanie Pasewaldt, left, and South Brunswick's Brielle Errico chase down the ball in Tuesday's GNC Girls Soccer Tournament quarterfinal. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

Monroe’s Stephanie Pasewaldt, left, and South Brunswick’s Brielle Errico chase down the ball in Tuesday’s GNC Girls Soccer Tournament quarterfinal. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

MONMOUTH JCT. — Three times proved to be a charm for the South Brunswick High School girls soccer team Tuesday afternoon. The third-seeded Vikings, who lost a pair of overtime games during the regular season, refused to make it a trio of defeats in extra time and got a sudden-death goal from Cagnie Antczak for a 3-2 victory over sixth-seeded Monroe in the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

With a throw-in from the right side of the field four minutes into overtime, South Brunswick’s Brielle Errico tossed it in and, after a pair of touches, the ball landed on Antczak’s left foot. The senior lofted a shot that eluded the outstretched arms of Monroe goalkeeper Erin Seppi, setting off a celebration as the Vikings advanced to Thursday’s GMCT semifinals.

“It’s one of the greatest feelings to know that you scored a goal for your team,” Antczak said. “To win the game for my team is an amazing feeling. It’s indescribable.”

Overtime was needed after a crazy sequence in the 64th minute, which saw both sides score goals within 30 seconds of each other. With the score tied at 1-1, South Brunswick won a corner kick and the ball went all the way through the box and came out to Taylor Brantely, who buried it on the short side.

But Monroe was not fazed; they took the ball straight down the field and worked it to sophomore Brooke Bussiere, who chipped it past South Brunswick goalkeeper Sydney Schneider to even the score.

“We talked a lot about how teams play differently in the postseason, because it’s a life-or-death kind of situation,” South Brunswick head coach Beth Barrio said. “And I think that the girls were prepared to have a tough game today. We knew coming in that Monroe was going to be a very difficult opponent; we played them twice in the regular season and when it went into overtime, I don’t think they were surprised.”

Before Antczak’s heroics in overtime, Errico had three separate rushes up the field, all resulting in shots wide of the net. But Barrio said she had stressed to her squad before the extra period began that they didn’t want it to get to penalty kicks.

“We’d been in this situation before and we know what it’s like to be on the wrong end of an OT game and we didn’t want it to get to penalty kicks; that would be a terrible way for this to end,” she said. “So we just tried to pump them up and say that the third time is the charm and that it was their game.”

In the early going, it looked like Monroe would be the team celebrating, especially after its two stars combined for the game’s first goal. Demi Rousseau dribbled all the way down the right wing and crossed a perfect ball to the foot of Taylor Evanchik, who tapped it home in the seventh minute.

But South Brunswick refused to go away, and in the 34th minute, the Vikings won a penalty kick after one of their players was hauled down in the box. Sam Stojanovski calmly stepped up and knocked it in, knotting the score at 1-1.