Hillsborough’s Kristina Dunphey lit up Ridge for 18 goals in two regular season meetings entering Tuesday night’s Somerset County Tournament final. And despite the Red Devils coming out on top on both occasions, Ridge rookie coach Laurie Anthony thought a change in her team’s defensive game plan was necessary.
Red Devils’ Ellexa Thomas shadowed Dunphey seemingly from the moment the teams exited their respective buses to take the field.
“I told her (Thomas) yesterday she’d be face guarding Dunphey, and she had a smile on her face,” Anthony said. “And she had a huge game. She took away her right hand and held Dunphey to her lowest scoring game of the season which is huge.”
“It was a huge task to take on, but we decided to face guard her and I did whatever I could to stop her,” said Thomas. “(Dunphey) always gets by us, so its huge momentum going forward knowing we can stop teams’ top threats.”
As Thomas held the state’s fourth-highest goal-scorer in check, the Ridge offense dominated possession and executed to near perfection on its way to repeating as county champs with a 19-14 triumph as Basilone Field.
Ridge is only the second team in SCT history to repeat as champs, and the first since Bridgewater-Raritan three-peated from 2008-10.
“We’ve shared a big rivalry with Hillsborough,” said Ridge’s Sam Brown, “so beating them is a great feeling, and especially being a senior and going out with back-to-back titles is a great feeling.”
Brown, bound for High Point, finished with four goals and four assists and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
With the game tied 2-2 through 10 minutes, the top-seeded Red Devils took control for good. They scored seven unanswered goals from the 16:37 mark until there was 5:39 left in the first half to build a 9-2 lead.
“We have been working on taking smart shots and making smart decisions,” said Anthony. “We only had three missed shots tonight, so I think we’re definitely becoming smarter with our shots and when we have possession.”
The second-seeded Raiders struck for three straight goals early in the second half to close to within 11-7, but that’s as close as they’d get.
Sam Brown halted the spurt with an unassisted goal with 17:50 left in the game.
“They get behind each other and played composed,” said Anthony. “It’s a heated match when we play Hillsborough, and I think that because Ellexa kept her composure, everyone was able to keep their composure.”
Izzy Behrins finished with four goals and an assist for Ridge (14-2). Hannah Quigley doled out four assists and teammates Meagan Qugley and Mackenzie Bori each found the back of the net three times.
Erika Cavallo led Hillsborough (11-6) with five goals, while Amanda Muller turned in three goals and two assists and Dunphey nothed a goal and three assists.
Ridge improves to 3-4 all time in SCT championship games, while Hillsborough drops to 3-2.