SCOTCH PLAINS – When you’re going up against a team that you know will be difficult to apply a great deal of offensive pressure on that puts the onus on your defense to be practically perfect.
Union’s defense played well against Scotch Plains Saturday afternoon, but allowed the visitors to score early, which set the tone for the rest of the match.
Top-seeded Scotch Plains went ahead for good less than five minutes into the match on a header goal and then added an insurance tally 19 minutes later in the first half en route to a 2-0 Union County Tournament girls’ soccer quarterfinal victory at Shimme A. Wexler Field.
The host Raiders, who improved to 12-2-1, will next face fourth-seeded Cranford in next weekend’s semifinals. Scotch Plains, the two-time defending champion, is one win away from reaching an eighth consecutive championship game.
Scotch Plains has either won or shared the title every year since 2005 except for 2009 when in the final it was defeated by Cranford 1-0.
Eighth-seeded Union, which slipped to 3-10, also lost at Scotch Plains 2-0 on Sept. 22 in Union County Conference-Watchung Division play. The Raiders scored one goal in each half of that victory.
Scoring for Scotch Plains on Saturday were Tori Baliatico and Annie Canone. Senior goalkeeper Taylor Sebolao was not busy, but did have to make two saves in the second half.
“We knew what we had to do,” said Union seventh-year head coach Eric Shaw, who was seeking to get the Farmers into the semifinals for the first time under his tenure. “Our objective was to counter because we’re not good enough up top.”
When Scotch Plains struck for its first goal with 35:21 left in the first half its mission of playing in front for practically the entire match was accomplished.
“Mentally, that takes a lot out of you when you go up against a good team like Scotch Plains,” Shaw said.
Keeping Union in the game throughout the entire match was sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Rivero. She immediately made two saves off a corner kick following the first Scotch Plains goal and finished with 10 stops total.
Rivero came out strong to catch balls in the box, punched away shots with her hands and could not be faulted for either Raider score.
“She played pretty well,” said Shaw, who was a standout goalkeeper himself for Union and then afterwards at Seton Hall University. “She was hurt part of the year with a concussion. She made some good saves.”
Also playing well on defense was tall sophomore Adora Moneme.
“We just put her back there and she’s done well,” Shaw said. “She’s good in the air.”
After not being able to produce a shot in the first half, Union had two close chances in the second. Senior forward Andrea Goncalves fired a shot from inside the penalty box that was called back because Union was off sides. Later, junior Maria Avella had a shot inside the penalty box that Sebolao had to come out and make a save on.
Union reached the quarterfinals after eliminating 16th-seeded Johnson 2-1 Monday in a first round match at Jim Jeskey Field.
Sophomore Nicole Araujo scored the game-winning goal late in the second half. Avella scored Union’s first goal, which came late in the first half. Rivero made one save.
Union’s first win was a 4-1 non-conference triumph at home over West Orange on Sept. 8. Moneme scored twice and sophomore Samantha Pereira and senior Nicole Bashford once for the Farmers. Bashford and junior Sofia Silva were credited with assists.
Union split with Summit in Watchung Division play, first losing 3-0 at home on Sept. 13 and then winning 2-0 in Summit on Oct. 9. Goncalves – on a rebound after a shot by Bashford bounced off the crossbar – and Silva, off an assist from Araujo, scored in the first half Oct. 9, with Rivero making nine saves for the shutout.
Union will have to make up its division home game against Scotch Plains, which was rained out Tuesday.
In other quarterfinal round play Saturday, Holly Confalone scored in the second overtime to lift sixth-seeded Summit past third-seeded Governor Livingston 1-0 in Berkeley Heights.
Jessica Sanyour earned an assist, while goalkeeper Callie Humphrey made 11 saves for the shutout. Summit improved to 8-8, while GL fell to 11-5.
Summit, which has handed Scotch Plains one of its two losses – a 3-2 home triumph on Sept. 27 in Watchung Division – has never won the UCT.
Lillian Scott scored two goals and Karli Sottung, Judy McDonald and Emily McBain one to lead second-seeded Westfield (10-4-1) to a 5-0 home win over seventh-seeded New Providence.
Westfield, which last won the UCT in 2002 and outright in 2001 when it defeated New Providence 2-0 in the final, received four saves total from goalies Keira Loftus and Hanna MacKenzie.
Katie Vigilante made 12 saves for New Providence (7-10), which is the two-time defending Group 1 state champion.
In Cranford, it was the host and fourth-seeded Cougars edging fifth-seeded Oak Knoll by winning a penalty kick shootout 4-3. The score remained tied 2-2 after 100 minutes of regulation (80 minutes) and two sudden death (10 minutes each) overtime periods of play.
Cranford (9-3-1) scored the first two goals in regulation before Oak Knoll (5-8-1) came back with two goals to tie the match and send it to overtime.
Saturday, Oct. 20
Scotch Plains 2, Union 0 – at Scotch Plains
Cranford 2, Oak Knoll 2, Cranford won on PKs 4-3 – at Cranford
Westfield 5, New Providence 0 – at Westfield
Summit 1, Gov. Livingston 0 (2OT) – at Gov. Livingston
Next weekend, TBA:
4-Cranford vs. 1-Scotch Plains
6-Summit vs. 2-Westfield
UCT GIRLS’ SOCCER CHAMPIONSHIP SCORES SINCE 1997:
2011: Scotch Plains 1, Westfield 0
2010: Scotch Plains 2, Westfield 0
2009: Cranford 1, Scotch Plains 0
2008: Scotch Plains 3, Johnson 0
2007: Scotch Plains 1, Westfield 0
2006: Scotch Plains 1, Westfield 1 – co-champs
2005: Scotch Plains 1, Oak Knoll 0 – SP’s first title
2004: Gov. Livingston 1, Cranford 0 – GL’s first title
2003: Oak Knoll 5, Gov. Livingston 0
2002: Westfield 0, Oak Knoll 0 – co-champs, Oak Knoll’s first title
2001: Westfield 2, New Providence 0
2000: Cranford 3, Union Catholic 1 – Cranford’s first title
1999: Union Catholic 4, Cranford 1
1998: Union Catholic 1, Cranford 0
1997: Union Catholic 2, Scotch Plains 0
Westfield won every year from 1981-1992 – its first 12 titles – and
from 1994-1996 – its next three. The Blue Devils have won 18 titles
total, including 16 outright and their last two shared.
Union Catholic won the first of its four titles in 1993.
Westfield defeated Johnson 2-1 in the 1994 final.
Westfield: 18, 2 of them shared.
Scotch Plains: 5, 1 of them shared.
Union Catholic: 4.
Oak Knoll: 2, 1 of them shared.
Gov. Livingston: 1.