The Hillsborough High School girls soccer team is coming off a challenging week, a run that included a draw with reigning state and county champ Montgomery, marking the first time in nearly two decades, the Raiders believe, they’ve done anything but lose to their rival.
Saturday, in the second round of the Somerset County Tournament, Hillsborough showed the effects of their emotional week, and while the Raiders certainly didn’t come out as crisp as they would have liked, like any good team should, they took care of business when the chips were down.
Emily Washbourn scored midway through the first half and Nicole Russo converted a penalty kick later in the period and seventh-seeded Hillsborough held off 10th-seeded Mount St. Mary, 2-0, at Noonan Field.
“We just wanted to win,” said Hillsborough coach LeeAnn Best said, whose team will visit second-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan in next Saturday’s quarterfinals “We came off a really tough week and had a very good result Thursday, so, emotionally, I think we’re really drained, and that was one of my bigger fears. And Mount St. Mary came out ready to go and probably were a little better than we suspected.”
While Hillsborough (5-5-1) certainly dominated possession from the start, it took a while for the Raiders to find their groove against the tenacious Mount Lions.
Washbourn finally broke through in the 19th minute, getting a fortunate bounce, as the sophomore had an open shot from near the 30-yard line and chipped one toward the net. The ball bounced in front of the keeper and took a surprisingly long hop, going over her outstretched finger tips and into the net.
The Raiders added to it 15 minutes later, as Mount St. Mary was whistled for a handball inside the box, setting up a PK, and Russo blasted it home.
“We have to play every team the same way, no matter who they are,” said senior co-captain Kate Swetz, whose team improved to 5-5-1 as its Raritan Division opponent fell to 8-4-1. “No matter what their record is we have to come out as hard as we can every game. After the first 10 minutes we picked it up.”
Hillsborough will certainly have no trouble with its intensity the rest of the way as it seeks its first county-final berth since back-to-back appearances in 2004-2005. After an inspired performance against the Group IV Raiders, the Mount Lions should also be fired up as they resume their regular-season run with an eye toward the state tournament, especially after a fantastic second-half effort that held Hillsborough to just two shots on goal.
“It was a good effort from the players,” Mount Lions first-year coach Phil Iuliano said. “As a coach, you want the positives out of a game like this against a quality team like this (to affect them). That’s what we’re going to work on, to keep that confidence level up to par and hope they take it a notch up during the rest of our games and into the state tournament as well.”