BERNARDS With a berth in the Somerset County Tournament quarterfinals at stake on Saturday, the eighth-seeded Ridge High School boys soccer team came to play.
The Red Devils (6-6) capitalized on almost every opportunity and defeated ninth-seeded Somerville 4-1 to earn a date with the top-seeded Pingry School next weekend.
“Offensively today I thought for the first half we were a little bit shaky, but second half we got rolling and we started to put some balls in the back of the net,” Ridge senior Brent Thomas said. “I think our combination play got a lot better on the wings and overall I think we really put out a good one.”
Ridge struck with its first goal with 25:38 left in the first half when Thomas corralled a ball that the Pioneers (2-10) were trying to clear and sent it up and under the crossbar for a 1-0 lead.
Fifteen minutes later Somerville scored an own goal while trying to defend to put the Red Devils ahead 2-0. The Pioneers almost got one back with under two minutes to play in the first half when AJ Quade took a free kick from about the 18-yard line but the ball hit off the cross bar.
Ridge kept its offense going in the second half when senior Justin Dahlberg scored on an assist from senior Kyle Brady. Brady sent the ball across the goal where Dahlberg took the shot from about the 15 and sent it up and over Somerville goalie Will Sokol and into the left upper corner for a 3-0 advantage.
“We came out, I think we played hard and really closed them down,” Brady said. “We started out a little soft physcially but I think in the second half we really started to command the 50/50 balls and I think that’s where we’re at our strongest, get the ball out wide and when we get up the field fast it works a lot better for us.”
Less than two minutes later the Pioneers got one back. Reilly Brenn took the ball up field, beat his defenders and sent a laser past Ridge goalie Mike Ardiff for a 3-1 game.
Both teams kept battling but it was the Red Devils that were able to capitalize one last time. Somerville was called for a foul with 12:36 to play, awarding Ridge an indirect kick at the top of the box. Brady got the first touch and sent a short pass to Colin Morrisey who sent it into the net for the 4-1 final.
Somerville had a couple of other chances to score, including one with 25:44 left in the game but Ardiff, who made four stops, made the save and sent the ball over the goal.
“I think we just needed to keep our shape, keep our defensive center mids in front of us and mark those people making runs, and I think we did a decent job of doing that, watching runs,” Morrisey said of the defense.
Sokol made five stops for Somerville.
Ridge, which has won its last four games, will face the reigning Somerset County champion Pingry next weekend in the quarterfinals. The two teams have already met this season, with the Big Blue (7-2-1) taking home a 3-0 victory on Sept. 24.
”I think we’re just finally starting to mesh, we had a lot of missing pieces at the beginning of the season, a lot of injuries keeping guys out,” Brady said. “We’re almost back to fully healthy now and everybody’s starting to click on the chemistry. We were switching up formations for a little, and I think we finally figured out what we need to do.”
Staff Writer Lauren Knego: firstname.lastname@example.org