After a disappointing regular season, the Hunterdon Central High School girls soccer team finished on a high note last year, winning the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex Tournament championship and making a run to the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Group IV Tournament.
The 2013 season, however, couldn’t have started better, and the Red Devils hope to carry the momentum straight through.
Junior Jenna Taylor scored the game-winner on a 28-yard direct kick with 2:18 left in regulation Friday, as Hunterdon Central toppled defending state Group IV champion Montgomery 3-2 on opening day.
“People didn’t expect us to win, so we just wanted to show them what we had and we did,” Taylor said. “We train so hard I think we deserve for people to know who we are.”
“We knew preseason that we had tremendous talent on this team,” Red Devils coach Jeannine Calhoun said. “But you don’t know, really, what you have until you measure yourself against a team like Montgomery. We were really happy to be starting with Montgomery because we wanted to measure ourselves against the defending state champs.”
Hunterdon Central wasted no time in getting things started, as Christine Tack struck 2:37 into the game, making a run down the right side, drawing out the keeper and beating her to the left corner.
The Cougars responded 6:35 later to tie it, as Helen Sluder chipped one toward the net from the right side that Central keeper Bristol Pizzuto leaped for and made a great play to grab in the air. But the sophomore lost the handle as she fell backwards, and the ball came loose as she hit the ground and rolled back into the net.
Montgomery took a short-lived 2-1 lead with 9:12 left in the first half when Katherine Lynch buried a penalty kick, but the Red Devils tied it 20 seconds later when Alison DeLuca came free to the left of the net with the keeper out of the play, a tapped one home.
Hunterdon Central continued to have the better of the play in the second half, dominating possession and outshooting Montgomery 9-2. With the clock ticking toward overtime, Central got a break, as the Cougars were whistled for a foul inside the 30-yard line, and Taylor blasted one top shelf from near the right hash mark to provide what proved to be the winner.
“I thought from beginning to end they were the better team,” said Montgomery coach Jeremy Beardsley, whose team lost just once last season (early in the season to Lenape). “I was really not happy with our group. I thought we gave up bad goals today. That was a great free kick, but it was a stupid foul.”
“They (Montgomery) are still a fantastic team and have so many weapons,” Calhoun said. “I just couldn’t be prouder of how our girls played defense, played smart at the end, finished the opportunities and just continued to withstand all the pressure that they bring.”