What: Somerset County Tournament final
When/Where: 1:45 p.m. today/Watchung Hills High School
Who: No. 2 seed Bridgewater-Raritan (11-3-5) vs. No. 4 Ridge (11-3-3)
How they got here: Bridgewater-Raritan blanked No. 7 Hillsborough 2-0 in the quarterfinals, before topping third-seeded Montgomery 2-0 in the semifinals. Ridge edged No. 5 Somerville 1-0 in the quarterfinals, and beat No. 1 Pingry 3-2 in the semifinals.
Bridgewater-Raritan Report: Making its first appearance in the final since 2002, the Panthers might be a defense-first team anchored by, arguably, the best keeper the county’s ever seen in Casey Murphy, but the offense has taken a definite uptick over the past couple of weeks. Bridgewater-Raritan averaged just 1.1 goals per game through its first 11 contests, before moving Allison Morgan from center-mid to forward, and the moved has helped spark an offense that has played with a lot more confidence, coach Chris Gerber said, and has more than doubled its goal production. Morgan is joined by Hayley Soriano up top, with central midfielder Lauren Hall and Kelsey Coulter, as well as outside mid Emily Szeflinski and Jessica Schwed providing support. Daniella Greco and Jenny Citrin lead a backline that’s allowed just 0.5 goals per game and pitched 11 shutouts, with Aston Schneider and Taylor Corsi shutting things down on the outside. Bridgewater-Raritan has not won a county title since 1995, despite winning double-digit games every year since. “They’re excited to have a chance at a championship,” said Gerber, who took over prior to last season. “I’ve been preaching it for two years; we are here to win championships. We’re not here to have a nice record and compete. We’re built to win.”
Ridge Report: Making their second straight appearance in the final, the Red Devils season has been remarkably similar to their opponents, as Ridge, too, boasts an airtight defense and an offense that has struggled at times, but has come up strong lately. After playing nearly 500 minutes of scoreless soccer at one point two weeks ago, the Red Devils have begun finding the net with a lot more frequency, posting 10 goals over their past four games, including a three-goal outburst against Pingry in the semifinals. Chrissy Weyrauch and Kelly McWorter lead the way up top, with Alex Weyrauch generating and finishing chances as the attacking center-mid. Gigi Cifelli and her lethal throw-in joins Kaitlin Ardiff on the outside. Keeper Sam Carney anchors the defense behind central defenders Jenny Haskel and Erin Convery, with Brittany Sheehan on the outside for a unit that’s let in just 0.7 goals per game. And although the Red Devils fell to Montgomery in last year’s final and hasn’t won a county championship since 2009, Ridge isn’t focused on making up for what could have been. “It’s not about going out there and winning one that got away last year,” said Ridge coach Katie Donahue, who feels her team is playing its best soccer of the season, in terms of consistency. “It’s about us as a team going out there and accomplishing what we want to get out of this game.”
Prediction: Ridge 1-0