Girls Soccer – Colts Neck Stuns No. 1 Northern Highlands for 1st Group III Title
Union, NJ - Colts Neck for the first time this season played the underdog role and proved those in New Jersey and the Country that the Cougars can play with anyone. The Cougars knocked off the No. 1 team in N.J. and in the USA Today National Poll, 1-0, behind a penalty kick goal from junior Frankie Tagliaferri with 25 minutes remaining in the game.
The Cougars entered the game with two 20-goal scorers in Tagliaferri (27) and senior Bridgette King (24), but were without King in Saturday's championship. In Colts Neck's semifinal contest against Toms River South on Tuesday night, King suffered a concussion that she was still feeling the affects of still today. King is not only a physical leader and presence on the field for Colts Neck but also the emotional leader. It showed early that Colts Neck was missing her leadership but Tagliaferri along with Amanda Visco settled the troops and put together a near perfect game against Northern Highlands.
"Today is an emotional day for me because I am not able to help my sisters out in our biggest game of the season, but I have faith in them to get the job done," King said before the game.
"I missed my (friend) out there today," Tagliaferri said of King. "She means so much to all of us when she is out there, so we all had to dig a little deeper today to fill her role and make her proud, to send her out a champion her senior season is amazing."
The two teams battled through the first 55 minutes of play near even possession, with Northern Highlands having the better scoring opportunities, but it was the Cougars defense lead by senior Amanda Visco and the stellar play from first-year sophomore keeper Lauren Feaster that kept the Cougars in the game. Feaster, who was a center defender up until this summer, was asked by head coach Doug Phillips to take over at keeper this season and after some initial hesitation, the sophomore made the best decision Phillips could ever have imagined. The sophomore made three incredible saves in the first half that kept Northern Highlands off the board and scratching their heads over how they were going to be able to beat her.
"This wasn't about me today, I was really nervous coming into this game and did not want to let the girls down going up against a great Highlands team," said Feaster, who has gone from field player fighting for varsity time to one of the top keepers at the Shore. "If it wasn't for the play of Amanda, Allison and Nicole, I would not have been able to do my job. The girls in front of me play amazing tonight."
The lone goal of the game came with 25 minutes to play when Tagliaferri got past the defenders and went one-on-one with Northern Highlands keeper Kayla Klatt who made a fantastic diving save to keep the score deadlocked. After a quick throw-in, Tagliaferri got the ball back and beat two defenders getting into the box and was tripped up inside the penalty box. This set up the penalty kick and one of the most important shots of Tagliaferri's high school career when she buried her shot past a diving Klatt into the upper corner for the 1-0 lead.
The Cougars played the next 25 minutes to near perfection on defense. Colts Neck went to an unusual defensive formation for them but one that was needed against the speedy Northern Highland attack that generated 92 goals this season. With four back line defenders and two stoppers clogging the middle the defense, they suffocated the Highlanders offense and any shots that did get through were steered away by Feaster, who finished with 11 saves.
With the win, Colts Neck wrapped up their undefeated season at 24-0-1, Shore Conference Tournament Champs, Class B North Champs, NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III Champs, NJSIAA Group III and likely the No. 1 spot across the final 2015 statewide.
The loss gave the Highlanders (22-1-1) their first loss in two years and just their second loss in the last five seasons. The loss also avenged last years championship game loss for the Cougars who fell 4-0 to the Highlanders.
"What an emotional win this was," Phillips said. "The girls left it all out on the field today. They answered every run that was thrown at them and worked together to get the job done. I knew we had the talent to get back here again this season, it was just a matter of getting a couple of breaks during the season to make this moment so enjoyable."
Player of the game…Junior Goalkeeper Lauren Feaster (11 saves, 3 of them game changing saves.
Colts Neck 1, Northern Highlands 0
|Colts Neck (24-0-1)||0||1||1|
|Northern Highlands (22-1-1)||0||0||0|
Goals (Assists): Frankie Tagliaferri (PK) 55’
Shots: Northern Highlands, 19-7
Saves: (CN) Lauren Feaster 11; (NH) Kayla Klatt 2