The West Morris girls soccer team just couldn’t get past Northern Highlands.
The Wolfpack, the North 2 Group III sectional champion, fell to the Highlanders 2-1 in the Group III semifinals at Millburn High School on Tuesday.
The loss ends an exceptional season for West Morris, which finished with a 19-3-3 record and a share of the Morris County Tournament crown. This is the fourth-straight year the Wolfpack have advanced to a sectional final and has twice won the title (the last one was in 2011).
“We’ve played them before and it wasn’t our best outcome,” West Morris senior defender Kendall Ballotti said. “So we knew going into it we wanted to do much better this time and we just had our mind set on playing our hearts out, giving it our all and going out with a bang.”
Northern Highlands (22-0-1) a team that had a 65-game winning streak going before tying Immaculate Heart 1-1 in the Bergen County Tournament final, struck first with 16 minutes 2 seconds left in the first half.
Forward Hana Kerner had the ball and West Morris goalie Ilissa Webb came out of the net to try and get the save. Webb slid and Kerner’s shot hit her leg and caromed into the goal for the 1-0 lead.
Less than six minutes later, the Wolfpack evened the score. West Morris had the ball in front of the Highlanders’ goal and took a number of passes before Madison Schmitt took a ball from Sydney Sapir and shot it past goalie Kayla Klatt for a 1-1 game.
“Northern Highlands has great tradition, you don’t win 70 games now in a row because you didn’t work hard and do the right things,” West Morris coach Ken Rossi said. “Clearly they have some premium players, they did the right things. We have some very tough athletes, girls that want to play hard and I think we held our own and proved that we’re a quality side.”
The Highlanders outshot West Morris 12-3 in the first half, and the shots didn’t slow down in the second. Eight minutes into the half Northern Highlands took the 2-1 advantage. Midfielder Clare Shea took a shot from about eight yards out and just snuck the ball into the left corner past a diving Webb for the goal.
West Morris had a couple of chances to tie the game, the best coming with about 13 minutes to play when junior Brooke Carty took a shot from about 25 yards out that hit the crossbar and Klatt then punched over the net.
“We rattled the crossbar in the last couple minutes,” Rossi said. “Their keeper made a nice save, maybe we get a touch another way and we come away with a win.”
Going against a team like Northern Highlands, West Morris knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but the Wolfpack defense faced a total of 28 shots and only allowed two goals. The Highlanders’ defense made it a touch tougher for West Morris’ offense, holding it to only seven shots on goal. Klatt made five saves for Northern Highlands while Webb made 14.
“I’m so proud, we’ve done everything that we possibly could,” Ballotti said. “We just have such a good strong connection with each other and it makes it that much harder to lose and have it be over, but I couldn’t be more proud of every girl on this team.”