by Andrew Garda
It took overtime and a penalty in the box, but the Montclair Kimberley Academy girls soccer team beat Glen Ridge 2-1, improving to 4-1-2 on the season.
The game winner was scored by junior Alexis Riley, who had been knocked to the pitch a few minutes earlier. Shaken up, she had left the field, but returned in time to draw a foul in the box, resulting in the game-winning goal when she beat goalie Isabelle Deubner.
“I’m extremely proud of her,” Cougars head coach Christie Welsh said after the game. “Alexis is super-competitive, and she gets fired up and sometimes sees red. So her ability today to go through that emotion and then to perform and place a perfectly legitimate and good penalty kick, it’s tough to do.”
It’s especially tough to do against a team like Glen Ridge, whose physical play always pushes buttons.
“Glen Ridge always gives a physical game,” Welsh said. “It’s always expected. Obviously, their sideline has a ton of energy which goes out onto the field and exudes through the players. We always know every time we play them it’s going to be a good game.”
For a while, the Cougars had the better of Glen Ridge though, as they constantly pressed downfield offensively while the defense was able to disrupt Glen Ridge’s offensive efforts.
At halftime, the Cougars led off an Ally Raff goal, which Riley assisted on, and Glen Ridge didn’t seem to be playing their game, lacking the physicality they are known for.
When the second half opened though, Glen Ridge was back to playing their game, and it was MKA’s turn to seem out of sorts.
However, the Cougars defense continued to play well, and were able to hold off Glen Ridge for a long time.
Welsh had decided to start the game using a formation with just three players along the backline, in the hopes that putting more players on offense would spark some goals, which have been hard to come by this season.
That meant the back line of Lily Pryor, Chloe Skipper and Rylie Frieder had to play very well. Welsh was especially pleased by the play of Skipper, a freshman.
“Chloe, who played center-back, I made a point to tell the girls after the game she probably put on a ton of miles today,” Welsh said. “She’s been a backbone for us defensively in a mess of games now.”
One of the reasons Skipper has had to step up is the absence of Sarah Hobbs, who has been hurt. While Hobbs, along with sophomore transfer Julia Conforti, came back this week, their absence has resulted in some shifting of positions.
Unfortunately, Glen Ridge slipped a ball past goalie Arianna Jobst late in the second half.
As regulation ended, it was Glen Ridge with the momentum.
MKA came out of the break on fire, though, and charged down the field several times. Glen Ridge was able to fight back, though, and clear the ball out of the defensive backfield, occasionally creating their own scoring chances.
Then came a collision in the box and Riley’s goal.
“Right or wrong we were on the good side of some situations today,” Welsh said.
Things didn’t quite end up on the right side on Monday against Mount St. Dominic, as the Cougars fell 1-0.
But MKA can get back on track when they welcome Montclair High School to Van Brundt Field on Friday, at 4pm.