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Audubon players and their coach Bill Scully gathers around the NJSIAA Group 1 state championship trophy after winning penalty kick shootout vs. Glen Ridge after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer on Sunday at Kean University's Alumni Field. It was a first overall state title for the South Jersey school which beat Shore in semifinals. (Sideline Chatter photos)

Glen Ridge coach Oscar Viteri talks to his team before they took part in the penalty kick shootout vs. Audubon in Sunday's Group 1 state final at Kean.

Glen Ridge Absorbs Heartbreak
As Audubon Wins PK Shootout

By Steve Tober

UNION- Glen Ridge had dominated play, especially in the two overtime periods, and was knocking at the door once again when a golden opportunity in front in the 98th minute was snared by Audubon’s brilliant freshman goalkeeper Aysiah Maldonado.

Then, it came to penalty kicks, which were instituted for the first time this season to break ties in state finals, and Audubon, the South Jersey team that upset 3-time defending champion Shore Regional, 2-1, in the semifinals, won the shootout, 4-2, to capture the 2018 Group 1 girls soccer state championship Sunday afternoon at Kean University’s Alumni Field.

Glen Ridge (11-7-3) certainly deserved a better fate based on its quality of play, but the Essex County team just couldn’t find the back of the net in regulation or in either of the two 10-minute overtimes, thanks in part to the stellar net minding of Aububon’s young keeper.

“We knew Glen Ridge was a very good team, and that the state final could come down to penalty kicks, which we had practiced this week,” said Maldonado, who had 10 saves plus a key stop in the PK shootout to seal the 4-2 edge for the Green Wave. “We have terrific seniors on this team and a great fan group that gives us tremendous support and I did not want to let them down.”

Glen Ridge maintained possession for much of the first half and even when Audubon (17-4-3) began to mount a bit more of a surge in the final 40 minutes of regulation it was the Ridgers who had the better chances in the 18-yard area in front of Maldonado.

“I just feel bad for the kids,” said Glen Ridge veteran coach Oscar Viteri. “We dominated but we just didn’t get good looks on the keeper.

“The keeper’s good. Our game plan was to get looks outside and we almost had one at the end in overtime.

“We’re facing someone new, they don’t know us, we don’t know them. You can say we dominated play, but when it comes down to it in the end we lost on PK’s. I know it’s tough on the kids; it’s just who has the better nerves, who’s better under pressure. I hate for it to come down to that. It is what it is.

“Congratulations to them, first year (in a state final), first win for their program and they played well. They’re a scrappy team and they worked hard.

Still, the PK shootout, as a new advent in 2018 to decide a state champion, has its very painful side for the team that comes up on the sort end.

Maddie Spink and Mackenzie Rayha-Slover gave Audubon a 2-1 lead in the shootout after Glen Ridge hit the left post on its second PK attempt.

The versatile Maldonado made her team’s third PK and Quinci Bantle hit what proved to be the clincher before Maldonado made the save on Halinka Prussak’s attempt with a game-clinching save on the Ridgers’ fourth attempt in the best-of-5 shootout.

“I get it, they want to come out with a winner. But both teams are working so hard. In my opinion, I’m not a big fan of the PK’s, never really was because you have kids with so much adrenaline, playing all 80 minutes then overtimes, then you ask them to take a kick with the game on the line, and a state game like this.

“It’s a tough call (for the NJSIAA). I can understand they want to eliminate the co-champs, but it’s been going on for many years before this.”

Glen Ridge was a co-state champion in 2013 with Shore. And now, it’s been six Group 1 finals in the past seven years and there have been three state championships (2001, 2012 and ’13) during the Viteri reign that began in ’01.

“Come August we couldn’t even string four or five passes together,” said the longtime Glen Ridge coach. “We knew we had talent, just trying to get things to gel. We had September hiccups then in October we got it together; we had a great county final (2-1 overtime loss to state-ranked West Orange) and now here we are.”

“This tournament (Group 1) is our bread and butter and this is what we work for.

“It was a great season we’re very young, we started four freshmen and the future is bright, but it’s tough a loss like this.”   

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

As the scoreboard in the distance at Alumni Field reveals the fact that Audubon has won the PK shootout, 4-2, two Glen Ridge players console each other after what was one heartbreaking ending to what had been a scoreless stalemate for 100 minutes in the 2018 NJSIAA Group 1 final.


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