Facing a team two days before seeing them in a tournament game is a good way to formulate a game plan for when the chips are finally down.
For the Ridge High School girls soccer team, Thursday’s regular-season game against Hillsborough might be a good lesson of what not to do in Saturday’s county match.
Ridge put forth a less-than-inspired first-half performance Thursday and found itself scoreless at halftime. Thanks to some minor adjustments, some refocus and the play of sophomore Jenny Haskel, the Red Devils were able to turn it around in time to claim a 3-0 victory.
After each team came up empty on three first-half shots on goal, Haskel moved up top after playing the majority of the opening period on defense and cashed in 1:34 after the intermission, chipping in a pass from Andrea Rijo.
Allison Pine put back a rebound after a Gigi Cifelli blast 7:30 later, before Haskel capped it following a great run down the right sideline with 14:53 remaining.
“We knew that we needed to put a little more effort into it,” Haskel said. “Some of us were just standing around in the first half. We needed to put more energy and intensity.”
Hillsborough (5-7-1) did a great job disrupting Ridge, for the most part, and with a couple of breaks the final score could have easily looked a lot different.
The Raiders missed several opportunities, including a blast that hit the crossbar less than 10 minutes into the game, and allowed two goals that could have been prevented – one of which coach LeeAnn Best said her keeper lost in the sun and another when she turned her ankle making a save and then lost the ball on her way down to the turf.
With second-seeded Ridge set to face No. 7 Hillsborough again Saturday in the Somerset County Tournament quarterfinals, the Red Devils (9-2-2) know they’re going to need max effort if they are to advance.
“We should definitely have a little bit more intensity (Saturday),” Haskel said. “There’s more at stake, so we definitely need to light the fire a little bit quicker.”
“We were disappointed, we played terrible (in the first half),” Ridge coach Katie Donahue said. “At halftime, I wasn’t sure how they were going to respond. I didn’t know if they were going to be able to settle down and play the game a little bit smarter.”
Heading into Saturday’s contest, while Donahue doesn’t plan to do anything differently from a strategic standpoint, she does expect her team to come out a little more fired up considering what’s on the line.
“Some kids take it more seriously when there’s elimination on the line and the pride that goes with that.,” she said “But I think any player wants to come out with a win regardless of what kind of game it is.”
Best, who rested a couple of starters who were battling nagging injuries Thursday, has the same expectations for her squad’s effort.
“We want to go out there and still prove ourselves and build a little credibility that we can play with them,” Best said. “We want to go at them, we want to win, though I think the approach (Saturday) will be that now it’s do or die.”