After a back-and-forth, 100-minute battle between her Wall girls soccer team and Seneca, senior goalkeeper Nelly Bianchi-Nagle made three straight saves in the shootout and Seneca hit the crossbar on its final attempt to send Wall into the Group 2 Final for the second straight year.

The Crimson Knights prevailed, 2-1, in the round of penalties after a 3-3 draw that saw the lead change hands twice -- three times including Wall's victory in the shootout.

“We went into PKs last game and we got out of it so going into again, I had faith in my shooters,” Bianchi-Nagle said. “When the two lefties stepped up it was a little different because I am used to all righties. It is strategy how they line up and where they are going to go and just sticking to your decision.”

Seneca put Wall in a hole four minutes into the game, when Hannah Eichman scored off a cross from Gabby Miller. Wall would settle down and both teams would create scoring opportunities, but the defenses had the upper hand for the rest of the half. 

In the second minute of the second half Wall forward Sam Brett drew a foul in the box and converted the penalty kick to tie the game at one. The Knights applied pressure for a good portion of the second half and took the lead in the 63rd minute, when Erynn Richey’s corner kick deflected off a Seneca defender and into the goal.

Seneca tied the game in the 70th minute when Miller, who is committed to play at Rutgers next season, beat a Wall defender down the side and got into the box to score. Miller would give Seneca a 3-2 lead in the 75th minute on a blast from 30 yards away. 

“I have to rip them at halftime and then they come out blazing,” Wall coach Annie Menafra said. “That girl (Miller) is good. I said to them any chance you get you need to double that girl. I thought we had a couple good chances right at the start of the second half.”

In the closing minutes, Wall moved the whole team up to apply pressure for the equalizer. With 2:44 left, Erin Farrell scored the equalizer off a cross from Ellie Hartz that Seneca goalkeeper Genevieve Jenkins came out to make a play but could not hold onto. 

“I am still in shock a little bit,” said Farrell about her equalizer. “Seeing two minutes on the clock I knew this was not going to be the way we were going to lose. I saw Ellie crossing and I just followed it and I was there to tap it in.”

Erin Farrell (Photo by Eric Braun)
Erin Farrell (Photo by Eric Braun)

Seneca had a chance to end the game in the 88th minute, but Miller shot the ball wide. Wall followed that with an open look in the middle of the box, but it was shot right at Jenkins who made the save. In the second overtime, Wall had the best chance in the 94th minute, but hit the post. 

Seneca went first in the shootout and led off with Miller, who buried her attempt. Wall responded with a goal by Hartz. Seneca sent Bucknell commit Ava Palladino up second and Bianchi-Nagle dove to her left to make the save. 

Aileen Carr, who was the only player to miss in the shoot-out against Rumson, redeemed herself and gave Wall a 2-1 lead. 

Aileen Carr (Photo by Eric Braun)
Aileen Carr (Photo by Eric Braun)

“I am super happy Aileen can redeem herself after the other night,” Menafra said. “I knew she was going to make it as soon as she stepped up to the line. She is the type of player that isn’t going to miss again because she knows how bad it felt the first time.”

Seneca sent Rihanna Vincent to shoot in the third round and once again Bianchi-Nagle made a diving save to her left. Bianchi-Nagle made another diving save, but this time dove to her right on a shot by Vanessa Auty in the fourth round. 

Wall had a chance to seal the victory in the fourth round, but Jenkins made two saves on Megan Farrell after she was called for leaving the line early.  Seneca’s fifth shooter, Caydence Feehan, hit the crossbar and the ball bounced away to secure a 2-1 victory for Wall.

“That was awesome,” Menafra said about Bianchi-Nagle’s performance. “She’s got a fire under her butt. That was an awesome turn of events.”

Wall will play Ramsey on Sunday at Franklin High School for the Group 2 title, with kickoff scheduled for 3 p.m.

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