BERNARDS – Ilissa Webb walked slowly toward the West Morris sideline and was met by her teammates. No one spoke as Webb continued toward the Wolfpack bench, pausing only to throw her goalkeeper’s gloves at a trash can.
West Morris fell to Northern Highlands in a shootout in a NJSIAA Group III semifinal on Tuesday night. After 100 minutes of scoreless soccer between two of New Jersey’s top defenses, the pressure went squarely onto the goalkeepers: Webb and Northern Highlands senior Kayla Klatt.
Each made one save in the eight rounds of penalty kicks. Webb got her hands to Highlanders junior Eva Hurm’s final attempt, but it still trickled into the far left corner. Undefeated Northern Highlands edged West Morris, 6-5, in the shootout, as Webb and Klatt each made one save.
Cassandra Montgomery, Alison Cuniffe and Emily Driscoll converted their PK opportunities in the first round of five attempts, which ended 3-3. Montgomery was West Morris’ first shooter in the second round, converting low and left. Northern Highlanders midfielder Casey Richards matched her, low and right. Kate Willsey scored on a high shot to the right for the Wolfpack, again matched by Highlanders defender Morgan Busacca into the top right corner.
After Klatt’s save, Hurm was able to sneak the final ball into the goal.
This is Northern Highlands’ fifth straight trip to the Group III final. The Highlanders (23-0), who have allowed just two goals all season, will face Colts Neck for the championship on Saturday.
“We’re crushed emotionally right now,” West Morris coach Ken Rossi said. “We played unbelievable. We had time we had to defend and weather the storm they bring. They did what we asked.”
The Wolfpack (21-2) has relied on Webb and its back line — which has given up just seven goals — all season, and Tuesday night was no different. Northern Highlands tried to bring the ball up the wings and turn the corner, only to be turned back repeatedly by defenders including Willsey, Driscoll, Julia Trachtenberg and Leanne Engemann.
Webb made seven saves on Tuesday, all but one in the second half and OT.
“Their defense did a good job holding off our offense. As an attack, we had trouble,” said Klatt, who made five saves. “When we went to penalty kicks, there’s obviously pressure, but it’s something we mentally prepare for.”