HOLMDEL – For the Holmdel girls soccer team, it was déjà vu all over again against Governor Livingston.
The third-seeded Hornets defeated the tenth-seeded Highlanders 3-0 in the Central Group 2 semifinals on Monday. The game was a rematch of last year’s sectional final, a game that was also won by Holmdel.
Senior forward Hannah Lee led the Hornet offense with two goals and one assist. Working in tandem with fellow senior forward Gabby Bair, who scored one goal at the end of the game, Lee scored at the halfway mark of the first half to give the Hornets (15-6) a 1-0 lead.
“We have really good players all around and it’s really important to work together,” Lee said. “If we don’t play together, none of our plays will happen.”
Junior goalkeeper Mattie Milkowski dislocated her left pinky on a save shortly before halftime. The finger was popped back into place and about 30 seconds later, Highlander midfielder Lindsay DiStaso ripped a potential game tying shot across the goal, which Milkowski made a sparkling save on.
Holmdel coach Jennifer Conroy joked that her keeper may have been aided by her crooked finger, but the play also seemed to spark her team.
“For her to come back, the girls knew what she did,” Conroy said. “I thought she played great. She’s been getting better and better every game.”
On the heels of the terrific save, Bair crossed the ball into the box where Lee finished for a goal three minutes into the second half, extending the lead to 2-0.
“Our goal was to score another goal,” Lee said. “We wanted to make sure we ended up with the ‘W’ at the end of the game.”
The second goal in the opening minutes of the second half sealed the game.
“We saw them get that second goal quickly and it kind of took the wind out of our sails,” said Governor Livingston coach Mike Roof, who’s team finished at (9-11). “There was still plenty of time do something, but we didn’t do enough in the end.”
Also loaded with seniors, the Highlanders had a few opportunities in the second half, but couldn’t convert. As they got more comfortable, the Hornets started to dominate the midfield, making it difficult for the Highlanders to score.
“You hate to see 12 seniors go out like that, but that’s life, somebody has to lose,” Roof said. “It’s how you move on from this is what tells me more about you.”
The Hornets will face off against Rumson-Fair Haven in the finals on Thursday. Holmdel has played their rivals twice this year, and have lost both games.
“Every time we play them, it’s a battle,” Conroy said. “Thursday will be no different.”
Staff writer Daniel LoGiudice: firstname.lastname@example.org