by EDWARD KENSIK
for Montclair Local
As the minutes and seconds wound down on Friday, Oct. 4, it appeared that the Montclair High School girls soccer team’s unblemished record might take a little dent.
But staring down a scoreless draw against Watchung Hills in an independent contest at Fortunato Field, senior Abby Romano pulled off a nifty trick, blasting in the game-winning goal with eight minutes left in regulation.
Romano’s goal, off junior Sydney Masur’s assist, stood up as the only tally in a 1-0 win for the Mounties, who improved their record to 11-0-0 in their last game before the Essex County Tournament gets underway.
It was the second time in a week that Romano scored a goal and also the game-winning goal; she also notched the game-winner in Ridge, 1-0, on Sept. 30.
Romano said that the goal was aided by a deep run made by junior Chloe Nemes down the opposite side of the goal.
“I just hit it with the side of my foot,” she said. “I think it helped that Chloe was coming down on the right side.”
Senior goalkeeper Amelia Platt made four saves for the game as she helped register the seventh shutout for the season for the Mounties.
“This has been good but [we have to] keep it going,” Platt said.
Montclair is on course to compete for league, county and state championships this year, and for Romano, that’s not a surprise.
“The support on the field has just made it super good vibrations,” said Romano.
The road to the first of those championships gets underway for MHS today, Thursday, Oct. 10, when they host an Essex County Tournament Round of 16 game at Fortunato Field at 4 p.m. The Mounties, the No. 1 seed in the bracket, will host either 16th-seeded Cedar Grove or 17th-seeded Science Park.
Should they advance, the Mounties will also host a quarterfinal game this Saturday, Oct. 12, at a time to be announced. The opposition would be either eighth-seeded MKA or ninth-seeded Glen Ridge, both of whom were defeated by the Mounties by 3-0 scores in September.
The ECT semifinals will be played at Caldwell High School this Tuesday, Oct. 15, part of a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m. Should Montclair advance to this round, they would play the 5 p.m. game.
The county championship game will be played at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Livingston High School.
Other top seeds in the tournament include No. 2 West Orange, the defending champion, No. 3 Livingston and No. 4 Mount St. Dominic.
Against Watchung Hills Friday, the Mounties had the better of the chances in the first half, though the visitors controlled possession in Montclair’s side of the field more often.
But scoring chances started to flow more freely after halftime.
Watchung Hills’ best chance came from Chloe Ferreira, a 15-yard shot that rattled the crossbar.
“[Ferreira] was probably their best player and I thought she would hit the ball more,” Platt said. “Next thing I knew she shot the ball.”
Four minutes after that, MHS junior Emily Crane slipped past the Watchung Hills defense and had a 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Rebecca Schell, who managed to block the shot and prevent a goal on the rebound.
Crane and the Mounties had several other chances before Romano found the back of the net for the game’s only goal.
The win came on the heels of an important Super Essex Conference-American Division victory last Wednesday, Oct. 2, when Claire Manning scored twice, including a golden goal in a 2-1 overtime win over Mount St. Dominic.
Manning, a junior co-captain, is the team’s scoring leader, having tallied 18 of the Mounties’ 34 goals this season.
After the win over the Mount, MHS boasts a perfect 6-0-0 record in the SEC-American Division, and will clinch the outright division title with either a win or tie in their final league game, an Oct. 21 home game against Livingston (5-1-0 in the league).