Arianna Chidiac’s last-minute goal delivers Central Regional girls soccer its first sectional title
BERKELEY TOWNSHIP – Defense was the name of the game for both Central Regional and visiting Kingsway during Monday's NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 sectional championship game.
Then, senior forward Arianna Chidiac delivered the biggest goal of her career to send the Golden Eagles to a historic victory.
It took 79 minutes and 35 seconds for the game to be decided until Chidiac supplied the deciding strike off the crossbar that took a favorable bounce and crossed the goal line to give Central a 1-0 victory over Kingsway and secure the program's first state sectional championship.
“I am so so proud of our team, we worked so hard all season for this with only one loss, we pushed through in the end, and I couldn’t be happier,” Chidiac said. “I saw with 25 seconds left, I was like, 'you know what? I am just going to shoot it and hope for the best.' Their defense was the best part of their team, so it was very hard to push through. I am just so happy. We are making history here at Central, and I am so proud of my team.”
“The girls soccer program had a ridiculous run from 2012 through 2014 with Amanda Caroline and Erin Trapp, but they lost in the Group 3 finals in 2014 to Toms River South,” said Central Regional Athletic Director John Scran. “This team is very special and it’s huge for the Berkeley community."
Central advances to the Group 4 semifinals where it will host Central Jersey Group 4 champion Freehold Township. The Patriots defeated Manalapan, 1-0, to capture their third straight sectional crown.
Kingsway was no pushover as the Dragons came into the match at 16-2-3 with one of the strongest defenses Central faced all year. The Eagles seemingly dominated most of the game, but some diving saves in goal combined with a stout defense that did not allow many shots on goal saw the Eagles staring at the possibility of penalty kicks to decide the title. With approximately 10 minutes to go in the game, Kingsway started playing keep away and played for the shootout where it became clear that was their best shot at beating Central.
A clearance kick from Kingsway sophomore goaltender Mackenzie Barry did not go the distance she had been kicking all game and the ball was received by Central’s Ava Schmidhauser, who immediately got the ball to the Eagles' leading scorer, Emma Harmon, who managed her way around her defender with nearly perfect footwork. Harmon slid the ball to Chidiac, who made a move on her opponent and got the ball back to Harmon with what seemed like a perfect give-and-go with an opportunity for Harmon to deliver the game-winner. Instead, Harmon got it right back to Chidiac, whose shot rocketed off the crossbar and bounced in for the game-winning goal. The ball actually came back out of the goal where Laura Woermer headed it back in for good measure, but the original goal was good and Central had secured its historic first girls soccer championship.