WALL TWP. - Olivia Ramiz and Mackenzie Tranberg did not play high school soccer last year but they followed their Wall girls soccer team throughout the year and realized the 2019 had a chance to be special and they could help get them there.

On Thursday against Governor Livingston in the Central Jersey Group II championship game, it was Ramiz who starred, scoring two goals and sparking the top-seeded Crimson Knights to a 2-0 win over the No. 2 Highlanders for the program's third sectional championship in the last four years.

"I wanted to come in and make a difference," said Ramiz, who opted to play academy soccer both as a freshman and sophomore. "I talked to (head coach Mike) Juska and he wanted me to come out and play and I really wanted to. I decided to try it and I love it."

Wall celebrates its Central Group II championship. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Wall celebrates its Central Group II championship. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Wall advances to the Group II semifinal Tuesday at Hopewell Valley High School, where it will take on South Jersey champion Haddonfield, with a spot in the championship game on the line.

The Crimson Knights took the lead Tuesday in the 27th minute and the deciding goal came right after what appeared to be a missed handball call. A Governor Livingston player made contact with the ball but Tranberg was whistled for the handball on a play that occurred inside the 18-yard box.

Wall immediately won the ball and Ramiz took on a pair of defenders before sliding a 20-yard shot to the left corner of the goal.

"We got a handball called on the wrong team, I think," Ramiz said. "That made us a little angry so it made us want to score."

With the Crimson Knights defense clamping down on Governor Livingston's attack from start to finish, one more score would be the dagger and Ramiz delivered it in the 70th. Wall pressed the ball deep into the Governor Livingston third of the field and off a Highlanders throw-in, junior Ava Parella won the ball and found Ramiz open at the top of the 18-yard box.

Ramiz dribbled to her right, pulled up from straight away and buried a shot to the left side of the goal for the clincher.

"Ava passed me the ball in a perfect spot," Ramiz said. "It was a little behind me, so I could just turn and shoot."

While Ramiz stole the headlines by scoring both of the game's goals, Tuesday's game featured contributions from all over the field. The game started with Tranberg hammering a shot off the right post in the opening minute and Parella following it with a shot off the rebound that goalkeeper Sarah Foy saved to deny a quick strike.

Senior Marissa Sciorilli also drilled the crossbar in the 11th minute and senior Grace Gisoldi hit a follow-up shot on goal that Foy saved.

Over the first 50-plus minutes, Wall's defense silenced Governor Livingston, holding the Highlanders without a shot until the midway point of the second half. Senior Alexandra Hummel and junior Jamie Valvo were active in disrupting Governor Livingston's attack and leading the defense, with Gisoldi directing traffic in the defensive midfield.

"I think we were just playing safe and smart," Hummel said. "We talked a lot about communicating, making sure we were dropping when we were supposed to and keeping our shape."

Two Crimson Knights who were not as active were goalkeepers Jordan Cheche and Giullianna Cavazzoni, who each played a half in goal and faced a combined total of zero shots on frame.

In Wall's four wins during its sectional title run, Tranberg, Ramiz and freshman Kiersten Brown led the scoring charge. Tranberg went off for six goals in the first two rounds combined, while Ramiz and Brown each scored four for the tournament. Ramiz is the only Wall player to score in three different matches, recording a goal each in the quarterfinals vs. Rahway and the semifinals vs. Point Pleasant Boro.

Wall junior Olivia Ramiz. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Wall junior Olivia Ramiz. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Wall is two years removed from winning its first ever outright NJSIAA Group championship. In 2016 and 2017, the Crimson Knights won 24 games each year and went a combined 48-2-3 during that stretch with a Group III co-championship in 2016 to go with its Group II title in 2017.

Last year's sectional quarterfinal exit at the hands of Point Boro was a far drop from where Wall was one year prior but with so many seniors graduating in the spring of 2018 and a remaining roster heavy on juniors, some growing pains were inevitable.

"Once we lost those players two year ago, it was like everyone thought we lost the whole Wall soccer program," Hummel said. "Juska talked about proving that we are just as good as the past Wall soccer teams and that we have the ability to do everything they can do. We knew at the beginning we had the talent and once it all came together, we could be unstoppable."

With two offensive weapons in Tranberg and Ramiz joining the fray this season, Wall had the pieces to be a complete team that again competed for a state championship. The season, however, did not start so promising, with Wall dropping three straight to fall to 1-3.

Wall senior Mackenzie Tranberg. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Wall senior Mackenzie Tranberg. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"We have moved them around," Juska said of Tranberg and Ramiz. "We started the year with both of them up top, then we moved one up top and one to an outside mid. Lately, we have been going with Olivia up top and Kenzie at center-mid and that's been working well for us."

"We all knew they had the talent to do it," Hummel said. "I have been playing with Mackenzie since we were five and we have pretty much been the same positions the whole time. I know she has the ability and same think with Liv. She just is insanely fast. We knew she had it in her and she is starting to show it."

Photo by Paula Lopez.
Photo by Paula Lopez.

After suffering its fourth loss of the season - a 2-0 loss to Shore - Wall responded by topping St. John Vianney and Colts Neck, then reaching the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament. The Crimson Knights bowed out to North Jersey Section 2, Group III champion Middletown South but it took three second-half goals by the Eagles to shake off the Crimson Knights, 3-2.

"It took a little bit of time to work out but that's what the regular season is for," Juska said. "You want those perfect seasons, but those don't happen all that often. If I can start a season 1-3 and make the girls happy by winning a sectional title, it means a lot."

Box Score

Wall 2, Governor Livingston 0

Gov. Livingston (19-3)000
Wall (15-5)112

Goals (Assists): (W) Olivia Ramiz 27', Olivia Ramiz (Ava Parella) 70'
Shots: Wall, 12-2
Saves: (GC) Sarah Foy 6; (W) Jordan Cheche 0, Giulianna Cavazzoni 0


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