Girls Soccer – Haley’s Header Sends Rumson Back to Central Group 2 Final
MANASQUAN -- Reagan Haley was lingering near midfield as her Rumson-Fair Haven girls soccer team earned a corner kick just past the midway point of the first overtime at Manasquan Thursday afternoon in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II semifinals.
The sophomore defender then got the word from her older teammates to push into the box to try and scored the winning goal, which was noteworthy considering Haley can't recall ever being asked to push forward for a goal, let alone actually doing it.
Haley slipped into the box, made a run to the front of the net, measured a corner kick from junior teammate Aubrey Scoble, and hammered it in with her head from point-blank range -- the golden goal in an exhilarating, come-from-behind, 2-1 win for the Rumson-Fair Haven over Manasquan on Thursday.
"Never," Haley said, referencing how often she pushes forward. "For the one time I did it, it ended with a good result and I’m happy about that."
Rumson will host Wall in the Central Jersey Group II championship game for the second straight season and hopes to avenge a 2022 loss to the Crimson Knights in the championship game.
"I knew back in June, July when we started workouts that this team is special," Rumson coach Jeff Herkimer said. "We have great senior leadership, we’ve got great underclassmen, and they all want to do well. I told them yesterday, ‘We’re not done today.'"
In order to earn another shot at its first conventional sectional title since 2013 -- Rumson won the modified sectional title in the COVID-shortened 2020 season -- the Bulldogs had to get through a Manasquan side that proved itself tournament-ready by making it to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and is a year removed from also losing to Wall a round before Rumson did.
The two teams found themselves in a golden-goal scenario with the championship-game berth on the line and in the sixth minute of overtime, Rumson converted its relentless second-half pressure into a corner kick on the right side of the field.
"Golden goal, we know that anything can happen. It can be the flukiest, weirdest goal," Haley said. "We just had to find any way: it didn’t have to be pretty, it didn’t have to be the perfect pass, it just had to end up in the back of the net."
Scoble served up a kick that crossed the front of the goal head-high for Haley, who navigated past several bodies to get to what turned out to be a perfect service from Scoble.
"I thought it would be my chance," Haley said. "Aubrey always has the best corners, so I snuck behind the defender, because I knew they weren’t expecting me to go in. I saw the ball coming and I just gave it my everything to put it in the back of the net.
"I knew that we had to get a goal soon, so I was ready to give my everything. I would dive over people, outmuscle, just do whatever I had to do to get it for my team."
The winning connection was a sophomore scoring her first goal off a pass from a junior who played for another school a year ago -- two players who did not experience playing in the 2022 championship game and will now play in the 2023 version thanks to their overtime link-up.
"It comes down to this: let’s not go into double-overtime, let’s not go into PK’s," said Scoble, who transferred from Trinity Hall to Rumson-Fair Haven ahead of this school year. "I saw Reagan’s head and I was like, ‘She is running in, I’ve got to pop this right over (the defense). She was right there, perfectly in position to finish it. She met the ball right there at the front of the goal."
Rumson got off to an encouraging start that yielded a flurry of long shots on target, but no goals and nothing that tested the range of Warriors goalkeeper Gia Restivo to any significant degree.
By the tail-end of the first half, Manasquan turned the tide in its favor, which included two shots by senior Bianca Chiarella that clanged off the inside of the post, but did not go in. On the second of the two near misses, Manasquan had a clean opportunity for a rebound-finish, but senior Kali Saito's follow-up shot hit the left post just before the first half clock expired.
In between those misses, however, Manasquan connected on the game's first goal. Sophomore Jordyn Hollawell squared a pass over to senior teammate Renee Herbert, who fired a low strike from 20 yards out that skipped inside the left post in the 30th minute.
Manasquan's near-goal to end the half was the last real threat the Warriors mounted against Rumson, which dominated play in the second half. It did not help Manasquan that right outside back Rylie Rampone missed the entire second half due to injury, which opened up a chance for the Bulldogs to attack.
"The whole team across the board is super athletic, so we knew it was going to be a challenge," Scoble said. "But having that potential gap there definitely made us think, 'Okay, let’s capitalize.'"
Despite Rumson dominating play and outshooting Manasquan, 10-1, after halftime, the Bulldogs could only muster two dangerous shots against Restivo and one of them hit its mark.
In the 57th minute, senior Ella Mason took on multiple Manasquan defenders along the left flank, turned the corner along the end-line and buried a shot inside the near left post for the equalizer.
Rumson tested Restivo once more with a 30-yard blast from senior Paige that forced Restivo to elevate in order to keep the ball from tucking inside the upper right corner of the goal.
The Bulldogs already got a measure of revenge against Wall with a 2-1, overtime win over the Crimson Knights in a Shore Conference Class A Central match during the regular season, with Scoble scoring both goals. On Saturday, on its home field, Rumson will attempt to complete its run to redemption.
"Every game you play, you have to look at it like this could be your last game," Scoble said. "In tournament time, it potentially could be the last game. Knowing there is that title at the end of the game, though, and getting to win that with these coaches and this group of girls is going to be the ultimate."
"After (last year's championship game), some of the girls thought maybe they psyched themselves out," Herkimer said. "They were a little nervous going into the game and they didn’t play up to their ability. This year, they said, 'We want another chance.' Now, we’ve got that other chance."