EWING – The motto of the Shore Regional girls soccer team from the first practice of the 2013 season was “Surprise,” an allusion to lowered expectations following the graduation of seven seniors from an NJSIAA Group I finalist.

The Blue Devils lived up to their rallying cry for 70-plus minutes at Saturday's rematch with defending champion Glen Ridge in the Group I final, but it was a surprise from the Ridgers with minutes ticking away that left the Blue Devils unfulfilled, if only slightly.

Shore freshman forward Katie Stephens fires a shot during Saturday's draw against Glen Ridge in the Group I final. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

Glen Ridge sophomore standout Tomison Kennedy scored the game-tying goal on a counter-attack in the 72nd minute and Shore settled for a 1-1 draw with the defending group champions, resulting in the first NJSIAA co-championship since 2010.

The co-title is the first state championship in school history for Shore, while Glen Ridge is champion for the second straight year after its first ever group title last year. Immaculate Heart and Red Bank Catholic were the last two teams to share a state title – Non-Public A in 2010.

“I know the girls are going to be disappointed, but as a coach, I don’t look at it like that,” Shore coach George Moutis said. “They played their hearts out and played a great game, and that’s all you can ever ask for. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

The Blue Devils were ultimately pleased about bringing back the first title in school history in any form, but the result was disappointing based on the way Shore controlled the game. Shore dominated possession and outshot Glen Ridge, 12-5.

“It’s definitely a strange feeling because we know we accomplished something special that’s never been done at our school, but at the same time we’re disappointed we didn’t win,” junior forward Sam McDonough said. “It’s frustrating because we had the lead and we were dominating the game, but that’s how the game goes sometimes.”

The forward tandem of McDonough and freshman Katie Stephens carved up the Ridgers defense throughout the match, with Stephens knifing through the back line on several occasions off through-balls from McDonough.

Stephens actually set up Shore’s goal in the fifth minute of the second half, sending a cross from the right side to sophomore Devon McDonough, who one-timed a shot past Ridgers sophomore goalkeeper Ryanne Ege for a 1-0 lead.

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“I told them at halftime that if we were in our own end or around midfield, we could play the ball through and attack them using our speed, like we did in the first half,” Moutis said. “Once we were in the last third of the field, though, we had to attack them from side to side because they had so many defenders.”

Shore continued to pressure the Glen Ridge defense after the goal, and the numbers up left the Blue Devils vulnerable to a counter-attack. That counter did not come until the 72nd, when Kennedy ran down a long ball over the top from Olivia Schwern. Shore goalkeeper Katie Colaguori came off her line to meet the ball, but Kennedy beat her to it with a touch and ran it into the goal with a defender on each hip.

Stephens had her best chance at a goal with 2:40 left on a potential game-winner run. Sam McDonough again played her through to the goal and this time, the freshman took a touch to shake a defender and ripped a shot square off the crossbar. The Glen Ridge defense cleared the ball away to end the threat.

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Shore outshot Glen Ridge 3-0 over the 20 minutes of overtime and again, Stephens had the two best Shore chances. In both cases, Stephens turned the corner on the left flank, the first of which Ege came out to smother and the second of which she turned back on the near post in the 95th minute.

“This is a pretty nerve-wracking game to play in, so I’m sure Katie was nervous being a freshman,” Sam McDonough said. “She did a great job putting pressure on the defense, and she worked hard to get those chances. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t.”

Saturday’s game was nearly a mirror image of last year’s championship game, which Glen Ridge won 2-0 by dominating possession. The only difference turned out to be the score.

Win, lose or draw, Shore is set up to go deep into the state tournament beyond 2013. The Blue Devils dressed only one senior – forward Ciara Boice – on Saturday and will return 10 starters next season.

“We’re a little disappointed, but we have a lot of players back next year,” Sam McDonough said. “We lost last year, we tied this year, and next year, it’s going to be our turn to win it.”

“I don’t want them to think about winning next year,” Moutis said. “It’s a nice thought, but I want them to enjoy this. You never know what can happen next year.”

Box Score

Shore 1, Glen Ridge 1

1

2

OT

OT

F

Shore (9-8-4)

0

1

0

0

1

Glen Ridge (15-7-2)

0

1

0

0

1

Goals (Assists): (S) D. McDonough (Stephens) 45’; (GR) Kennedy (Schwern) 72’
Shots: Shore, 12-5
Saves: (S) Colaguori 2; (GR) Ege 5