The game was over and then it wasn’t.
In the first overtime period of their Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division clash, the East Brunswick High School girls soccer team appeared, at first, to have bested the Old Bridge Knights.
East Brunswick’s Sydney Rosa appeared to connect on a golden goal with time expiring in the first extra period.
With players running onto the field in celebration, spectators thought it was a certainty that it was safe to head to the parking lot and head on home for the evening.
What ensued was mass chaos.
Officials had gathered at midfield discussing whether or not there was time on the clock when Rosa made contact with the ball. Moments after the Bears thought they had a victory, officials concluded the goal did not count because it came after time had expired and the game was to go into a second overtime.
Luckily for the Bears, they persevered.
In the 96th minute of the second overtime, Kaitlin Roughan decided to put a bow on the game once and for all for East Brunswick as she connected on a free kick from 20-yards out to help her Bears, ranked No. 1 in the Home News Tribune Top 10, defeat the No. 3 Knights 1-0 on Thursday at Geick Park in Old Bridge.
“I thought it was a really well played game with an awkward finish,” East Brunswick coach Kevin Brady said. “As the officials were discussing the play, the seniors pulled the team together and said let’s be ready no matter what. I thought you saw that senior leadership come through at that moment. Once that game restarted I thought we could’ve been on our heels. Instead, the kids wanted to earn that win.”
After East Brunswick (12-1-2, 11-0-1 Red Division) senior Natasha Ntone Kouo drew a foul deep in the Old Bridge (9-4, 8-3 Red Division) zone, Roughan took center stage on the free kick attempt.
“I was trying to get it across the goal for a pass,” said Roughan, whose attempt for a pass on the free kick became the game deciding goal. “Our captains told us to calm down (after the Rosa goal was waved off). They told us to put our anger that we had at the time into the game.”
The loss ends Old Bridge’s three-game winning streak and even though the loss came at the hands of a bitter divisional rival, Knights coach Rob Lozzi told his players after the game to keep their eye on the prize.
“We can walk away from this and not feel that bad,” Lozzi said. “I feel that this team has the ability to win it when it really counts. We’re playing in the county tournament next week. (East Brunswick) already won the Red Division, and that’s fine. Our goal is going to be to win it when it counts.”