RED BANK - With its top goal-scorer out with a wrist injury and an opponent in Rumson-Fair Haven determined to prevent any easy looks at the goal, Red Bank Catholic needed someone to make the most of a scoring chance of any kind.

When the easy one did not go in for the Caseys, senior Sofia Giamanco stepped up and made a tough shot look easy.

Giamanco slipped a 16-yard strike from an awkward angle on the right side into the far side netting in the 53rd minute to give Red Bank Catholic - the No. 2 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - the only goal it would need in a 1-0 win over No. 10 Rumson-Fair Haven Thursday night.

"When I kicked it, I had a feeling it was going in," Giamanco said. "Getting that goal just raised the overall positivity of the team and we really went hard after that second goal. We didn't get it, but we worked really hard trying to get it and that helped us come away with the win."

Red Bank Catholic senior Abi George (9) plays the ball up with Casey Pavlick (5) in the foreground. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Red Bank Catholic senior Abi George (9) plays the ball up with Casey Pavlick (5) in the foreground. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Earlier in the half, Giamanco beat two defenders along the same right end-line and tried, unsuccessfully, to slip a shot inside the near post. Minutes later and just minutes before Giamanco broke through, freshman Morgan Cupo skipped a cross to the front of the goal, where senior Caroline O'Connor popped it just over the crossbar.

While it managed only one goal, Red Bank Catholic's attack took shape in the second half, which was particularly encouraging considering the Caseys were missing starters Juliana Rafaniello up top and Madison Holloway in the midfield. Rafaniello leads Red Bank Catholic with 12 goals and Holloway is third on the team with six assists.

"As a coach, the 1-0 games are nerve-wracking, but they really show you how your team responds in pressure situations," Red Bank Catholic coach Frank Lawrence said. "I think a game like this, where we are down two starters - one of whom is are most dangerous scoring threat - really shows the depth of our team. I think we are as balanced as any team in the Shore and it shows when we can put two bench players in the game and they come in and play like starters."

Lawrence said he expects both players will be ready to play by the day of the SCT final next Wednesday. Holloway will likely be ready for Saturday's game and if the Caseys can advance, Rafaniello could be available for the final.

With Rafaniello out, Rumson keyed on Cupo, who already has 10 goals in her rookie high school season. With Cupo routinely drawing two, sometimes three defenders, Giamanco and fellow senior Casey Pavlick wore out Rumson up the right flank. Pavlick also assisted the goal by Giamanco.

"We weren't playing as well as we needed to in the attacking third in the first half and we knew we had to step it up in the second half," Giamanco said.

"I was really glad to see Sofia get that goal," Lawrence said. "She plays with energy every single game and creates a lot for our attack and it doesn't always show in her stats, so seeing that shot go in was great. I'm glad she got rewarded tonight."

Red Bank Catholic dominated possession in the second half after Rumson gave the Caseys a scare during the first 40 minutes. On top of outshooting RBC, 3-2, in the half, the Bulldogs broke through the Caseys back line and when the ball got past senior goalkeeper Anthi Panayides, senior center back Abi George had to swoop in and clear the ball away from the goal-line to preserve the scoreless tie.

The shutout is the fourth straight and eighth overall for the Caseys and Panayides, who have allowed more than one goal in a game just once - in a 2-1 loss to Middletown South on Sept. 15. That was one of RBC's two losses on the season and the other was a 1-0 decision to Middletown North - the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the only team in the Shore still protecting a perfect record (15-0).

Before the Caseys can set out for revenge against Middletown North and reach for their record seventh SCT title, they will have to get past No. 3 Freehold Township, which has been to three straight SCT title games while coming up empty in each one.

"We came into the year believing we could be the best team (in the Shore)," Giamanco said. "We're excited to keep playing and we hope it's our year."

RBC, meanwhile, will play in its first semifinal since winning the tournament in 2013. The Caseys have since won a share of the NJSIAA Non-Public A championship in 2016, which underscores Lawrence's belief that winning the Shore Conference would be an even greater feat for his team than winning another state title.

"We really thought we could do something last year and a lot of things went the other way - injuries, some tough luck," Lawrence said. "This year, we have dealt with our share of adversity, but the focus has been there from day one with this group. It reminds me a little of the team that won the Shore Conference in my first year as head coach (2013) and I really hope they have a chance to experience that feeling of winning it, because they are good enough and they have worked had for it."


Box Score

Red Bank Catholic 1, Rumson-Fair Haven 0

Rumson-FH (9-4-1)000
Red Bank Catholic (13-2)011

Goals (Assists): (RBC) Safia Giamanco (Casey Pavlick)
Shots: Red Bank Catholic, 9-4
Saves: (RFH) Courtney Parton 3; (RBC) Anthi Panayides 1


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