It would have been very easy for the Somerville High School girls soccer team to let the frustration of playing a dominating first half with nothing to show for it get in its head during Thursday’s quarterfinals of the NJSIAA Central Group III Tournament.
It would have been just as easy for the Pioneers to lose focus after finally getting a goal, only to see Ocean Township tie it four minutes later.
But vying for a championship is never easy.
Emily Lockwood broke the scoreless tie nine minutes into the second half, and Maxine Blackwood and Melissa Hand added goals to put it away after Ocean tied it, and top-seeded Somerville advanced to the semifinals with a well-earned 3-1 victory over the eighth-seeded Spartans at a cold, wet and windy Brooks Field.
After crushing Ocean in every aspect of the game during the opening period, Somerville refused to use the weather as an excuse or its near-misses as a consolation prize, and came out just as intensely in the second half.
After generating four corners, six shots and four shots on goal in the first half, Lockwood finally broke through, skidding a free kick from 38 yards out through the keeper 8:58 after halftime.
“It’s kind of easy to get frustrated, but we can’t let up,” said Lockwood, whose team will play host to fifth-seeded Northern Burlington on Monday. “We have to keep trying, especially when it’s wet like this. We have to keep following our shots, and I think once we did, they started going in.”
“You just know it’s going to come,” Somerville coach Michael Kydonieus said. “You don’t want to get frustrated and you don’t want to show that, because then the kids will feed off of that. So you just stay calm and you keep playing with high energy and high intensity and you make it come.”
Just under four minutes after Lockwood’s tally, Ocean Township capitalized on a mistake, as Samantha DaCruz stole the ball near the 40-yard line, dribbled in unchallenged and beat the keeper from the left post to make it 1-1. And while Somerville was obviously shaken by the sudden reversal in momentum, the Pioneers were more than prepared to take it back.
“I think, definitely, the first couple of seconds after a score we’re the most vulnerable and I think we need to capitalize on those,” Lockwood said. “We can’t give up goals like that when we’re on the high after just having scored.”
“One of things that we’ve been talking about is finishing games and recovering from mistakes, mental focus and just staying strong for the 80 minutes,” Kydonieus said. “We made a mistake, which is going to happen at times, but the way we responded to the mistake is what I was expecting.”
Somerville continued to dominate, finishing the game having outgained Ocean 10-2 on corners and having outshot the Spartans 21-4, including 16-3 on goal.
Blackwood gave Somerville a lead it wouldn’t relinquish with 15:03 left, running down her own rebound near the right post and firing it into the far corner past the onrushing keeper. Hand then made it 3-1 with 8:23 left, tapping in a well-placed cross from Jennie Lynn Martino.
“They’re a tough team,” Kydonieus said. “They have played a lot of good teams and they don’t give up a lot of goals, so you have to give a lot of credit to them for keeping us off the board as long as they did. They’re a tough defense and they were determined not to let us score.”