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WALL TWP. - Rumson-Fair Haven was one of the first girls soccer programs in the Shore Conference to shut down for two weeks due to a confirmed COVID-19 case and it took belief and patience for the Bulldogs to get through a stretch that potentially threatened their season.

Compared to that ordeal, Sunday's one-goal deficit against the last team at the Shore with a perfect record heading into Sunday's NJSIAA sectional final round was no big deal.

It also helped Rumson-Fair Haven to have a scorer like junior Katie Aglione on its side.

Photo by Matt Manley
Photo by Matt Manley

Aglione scored two goals Saturday, including the golden goal on a 25-yard boot during the 93rd minute to give Rumson a 3-2 win over top-seeded and previously-unbeaten Wall in the NJSIAA Central Jersey East Group II championship game. The sectional championship marks the first such title for Rumson since 2013.

"This is the best feeling in the world," Aglione said. "This is what we have trained all year for and this is what we come for every year."

"I have never felt anything like this before in my whole life," third-year Rumson coach Megan Heerwagen Rizzitello said. "I am so humbled by these girls, I am so proud to be their coach. Wall was awesome, it was a great competition, we were happy just to be here today and thankful for the opportunity.

"Overcoming all of the obstacles - COVID, 2020 - just making it here was a privilege. Getting the result we did was unbelievable. No better feeling."

Senior Cortland McBarron tied the game for Rumson in the 71st minute when she headed down a corner kick by senior Lilly Frick and poked it into the goal from short range to square the game at 2-2.

"I kicked it, I ended up on the ground and when I looked up, it was in," McBarron said. "It was so exciting. I am so happy.

"We must have scored on about 20 or 25 percent of our corner kicks during the regular season. We have a lot of height and a lot of great athletes and I think our athleticism and our extreme willingness to go put the ball in the net showed."

Rumson's defense quieted Wall the rest of the way and in the third minute of the second overtime period, the Bulldogs got their chance to win it. The goal came off another corner kick, only this time, the Wall defense knocked it away from the goal.

Aglione, meanwhile, read the play, moved back 30 yards away from the goal and lined up the game-winning rip to the left corner of the goal from 25 yards out. Sunday's two goals gives Aglione a team-leading 15 goals to end the season.

"I always pop out on corner kicks because I know how our corner kicks go, I know every header (by the defense) is going out and I wanted to be right there for it," Aglione said. "(The keeper) was too close to the near post and I knew if it came to me, I could hit it far post."

"I get chills thinking about the way she played," Heerwagen Rizzitello said. "She is a very versatile player. A lot of kids that make up this program and Katie specifically, I am just so excited to see where next year takes her, where college takes her. She is excited to be here, she motivates everybody and she is always hustling at 100 percent."

Wall entered the game 16-0 and hoping to join the football and boys soccer programs at the school with perfect record for the fall season. After falling behind, 1-0, the Crimson Knights clawed back with two goals by junior Hannah Grabicki off passes from senior Olivia Ramiz.

In the 32nd, Ramiz slipped a through-ball between defenders to Grabicki making a perfectly-timed run, with the junior touching it toward the goal and finishing the equalizer. Grabicki returned in the 55th with a header right in front of the goal on a high cross by Ramiz sent in from the right corner.

With her dishes to Grabicki, Ramiz finishes a standout senior season with 25 goals and 15 assists.

"Their two forwards were insanely fast - great athletes," McBarron said. "In the beginning, we needed to get warmed up, but I think as the game got going, we really settled in to what we were doing and figured it out. (Ramiz) is crazy fast but we were able to work together and shut her down."

Rumson's talented junior forward got the Bulldogs on the board in the fourth, stealing the ball in the back, dribbling into the left side of the box and finishing with her left foot.

Rumson's season got off to a disconcerting start, with the team forced to quarantine for two weeks after coming in contact with COVID-19 within the first week of the season. Although it disrupted their season, the Bulldogs were fortunate enough that their quarantine happened within the first week of the season and that the team returned healthy.

"I feel so bad for the teams that had to drop out, especially for the seniors," McBarron said. "But this is still well-deserved for us. Wall is a great team and we had to beat a great team to win this."

While Wall was denied a perfect season by a golden goal, Rumson's lone loss in 2020 was a last-second, 2-1, loss to Holmdel - which finished 15-0 but was forced to pull out of the tournament while following COVID-19 protocol.

"This is a statement," Aglione said. "Wall is a great team, all the teams we played gave us quality competition and we made a statement by winning this. This is RFH soccer."

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