PT. PLEASANT BOROUGH - Without its leading goal-scorer and one of its most reliable defenders, the Red Bank Catholic girls soccer team had to find a way to both keep a potent Freehold Township attack off the board and also score enough to advance to the Shore Conference Tournament final in five years.

RBC's defense once again delivered with its fifth straight shutout and it was up to somebody to make a play and create a scoring chance.

That somebody was sophomore outside midfielder Aubrey Silverman, who swung a 20-yard shot that slipped out of the reaching grasp of Freehold Township goalkeeper Alessia LaRosa and dropped into the goal in the 64th minute - the difference in Red Bank Catholic's 1-0 win over the third-seeded Patriots on Saturday night at Al Saner Field.

With Saturday's win, No. 2 Red Bank Catholic advances to Wednesday's Shore Conference Tournament final against No. 5 Toms River North and will attempt to win its record seventh SCT title and first since 2013.

Red Bank Catholic senior Caroline O'Connor. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Red Bank Catholic played its fourth straight game without leading scorer Juliana Rafaniello and was also without senior defender Abi George, a lacrosse standout who was on a college visit to Coastal Carolina University.

 

"There was a lot of pressure because we didn't have a lot of goals to help us," Silverman said. "We just had to keep pressuring them and focus on shutting down their top scorer."

Rafaniello, who has 12 goals on the season, broke her wrist, according to head coach Frank Lawrence, and could be cleared to play by her doctor on Wednesday ahead of the final.

Saturday's game was a defensive struggle with neither team manufacturing many scoring chances. Freehold Township had the first half's closest call when junior Anna Priborkina clanged an 18-yard shot off the bottom half of the crossbar.

Red Bank Catholic began to generate some runs at the goal in the second half, with senior forward and Thursday's hero Sofia Giamanco holding the ball in the middle and hitting runners up the flanks with Freehold Township transitioning to defense.

The only score of the game came after the Freehold Township already tracked back and matched up. Senior Caroline O'Connor slid the ball to Silverman on the right side and the sophomore lofted a shot on frame that LaRosa could not hold onto.

"She has scored a lot of goals from that position because of her great left foot," Lawrence said. "If you have a great left foot, there is just something about it that is hard to stop."

"I was just trying to put something on goal and I was fortunate the goalie dropped it," Silverman said.

O'Connor also joined the defensive effort when Lawrence shifted her to the back line to give RBC an extra defender in hopes of protecting the one-goal lead over the final 16 minutes.

Caseys goalkeeper Ahthi Panayides saved five shots in her fifth straight clean sheet and ninth shutout overall this season.

"With 13 or 14 minutes to go, we changed our lineup to four in the back," Lawrence said. "At that point, you have to finish the game and when you are missing your leading scorer - the kid who has driven the team - you've got to change your approach sometimes. Caroline O'Connor is a great defender and I knew she would do a good job at central defender clearing the ball and playing smart."

The defensive effort has kept RBC thriving in the tournament and will give the Caseys a chance to become the second straight team to win the SCT despite losing its leading scorer to an injury. Last year, Amy Paternoster was leading Wall in scoring when she injured her foot in the Crimson Knights' first SCT game and missed the remainder of the season.

There is still a distinct possibility Rafaniello is cleared to play on Wednesday, but regardless of her status, the Caseys have confidence they can finish off a championship run.

"She has been the engine for the team this year," Lawrence said of Rafaniello. "She changes the game with her speed and scoring has been harder without her, but even with that, we're still standing. It's a testament to the resolve and determination of this group, as well as the depth of talent."

 

 

Box Score

Red Bank Catholic 1, Freehold Township 0

1 2 F
Freehold Twp. (11-4-1) 0 0 0
Red Bank Catholic (14-2) 0 1 1

Goal (Assist): Aubrey Silverman (Caroline O'Connor) 64'
Shots: Freehold Twp., 8-5
Saves: (FT) Alessia Larosa 2; (RBC) Anthi Panayides 5