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UNION TWP. - With each shot that came up empty late in regulation and overtime, the Wall girls soccer team had to begin to come to grips with the reality that its championship hopes could rest on penalty kicks.

That was a less-than-ideal proposition for a team that quadrupled its opponent, Parsippany Hills, in shot attempts. In retrospect, the Crimson Knights would have loved to have the chance.

After dominating possession for the last 40 minutes of Saturday's NJSIAA Group II championship game, Wall left itself open to a counter-attack in the 97th minute and junior Nerina San Martin capitalized with the championship-winning golden goal in a 1-0 Parsippany Hills win.

"We're super upset with how it just ended, but overall, you look at the big picture, I thought they played well," Wall coach Mike Juska said of his team. "They did a great job to get to this point."

Following a Wall turnover in the Vikings half of the field, Parsippany Hills quickly broke out on a counter-attack. Junior Sophia Vicenzino got the ball at midfield and played it long over the top of the defense. Wall senior goalkeeper Giuliana Cavazzoni came out to get the ball but San Martin beat her to the ball and chipped it over her for the game-winner.

"We got it to our midfielder, Sophia and I just went for it," San Martin said. "She lofted a perfect ball over the defense and I just chipped it over.

"I was stunned. It is unbelievable to score in this big of a game, with so many people watching and so much pressure on me and everyone on my team."

Wall finished the game with a decided 20-5 advantage in shot attempts but could not navigate the Parsippany Hills defense enough to unleash the deciding blow. Junior Olivia Ramiz was particularly dangerous, cracking three shots on goal in the second half, including a pair of one-on-one chances against goalkeeper Alex Jurrow within 1:30 of one another.

Ramiz also bent a dangerous 25-yard strike in the first overtime that just cleared the upper right corner of the frame and landed on top of the netting.

Wall's closest call might have been its chance in the sixth minute, with freshman Kiersten Brown hammering a shot that drilled the crossbar after Jurrow just barely deflected it.

Despite controlling the ball for most of the game, Wall had to remain vigilant in tracking back to prevent the Parsippany Hills counter, which cause the Knights problems in the final 20 minutes of the second half and nearly got the San Martin and the Vikings a goal in the 53rd minute. San Martin ran down a long pass, split two defenders and got a clean shot off that Cavazzoni saved.

"We said coming in that what they (Parsippany Hills) try to do is counter," Juska said. "They hold seven girls back and they have three girls up top with good speed. (Vicenzino) played a good ball and that's the ball we knew they were going to try to play. I saw (San Martin) making the run, it looked like we were in good position, she just made a great finish. The goalie did exactly what I would expect her to do in coming out to get it. It was a perfect ball and a great run."

Saturday's championship game was another down-to-the-wire match for the two finalists. Wall dominated the Central Jersey Group II section before needing overtime to get by Haddonfield, 2-1, on a Mackenzie Tranberg golden goal in the Group II semifinal.

Parsippany Hills, meanwhile, won four straight games by a one-goal margin to close out its second Group II title in four years, including a pair of overtime wins. The Vikings also defeated rival Parsippany, 2-1, in overtime in the sectional semifinals on a penalty kick by San Martin.

"The whole tournament, everyone doubting us and we kept proving ourselves the whole way," San Martin said. "We did it again tonight for the last game our season - the biggest game of our season."

Wall enjoyed a resurgent season in 2019 after bowing out in the sectional semifinals last year. The Crimson Knights were seeking their third championship in four years and are now 1-1-1 in the group final round during that span.

Eight seniors - Tranberg, Marissa Sciorilli, Alex Hummel, Grace Gisoldi, Izabella Aravich, Caleigh Burke and goalkeepers Jordan Cheche and Cavazzoni - contributed to this year's championship run and will turn the team over to a returning group expected to be led by Ramiz, junior Jamie Valvo, junior Ava Parella and freshman Kiersten Brown.

"At one point in the season, we were having conversations about just being .500 to make the Shore Conference Tournament," Juska said. "To go from there in the first week of October to be playing in mid-November for a state title just shows they got on board, they were willing to get better and to make changes. They fought extremely hard to be here, so they should keep their heads up because I don't think many people thought they would take it this far."


Box Score

Parsippany Hills 1, Wall 0 (OT)

Wall (16-6)02000
Parsippany Hills (16-6-4)00011

Goals (Assists): (PH) Nerina San Martin (Sophia Vicenzino) 97'
Shots: Wall, 20-5
Saves: (W) Jordan Cheche 1, Giulianna Cavazzoni 3; (PH) Alex Jurrow 10

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