By: Tim Falls
The Hopewell Valley Central High School girls soccer team kept its streak going long enough to reach the Mercer County Final last Friday night at Mercer County Community College.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, their 12-game winning streak ended against an unbeaten Steinert team.
The Spartans edged Hopewell , 2-0, in the county final and improved to 19-0.
Hopewell reached the final with a 2-1 overtime victory over Pennington, last Wednesday. The Bulldogs handed the Red Raiders ( 13-2-1 ) their second loss of the season.
"We played two of the toughest teams in the state," said Hopewell Valley coach John McGinley. "It gave us experience, but we’ve got to move on."
Hopewell , which earned the third seed and a first-round bye in the NJSIAA Central Group III playoffs will host sixth-seeded Ocean Township in the second round at 2 p.m. today.
Hopewell was also the third seed in the Mercer County tournament and managed to upset second-seeded Pennington to play in the final.
The Red Raiders scored first against Hopewell , but Arielle Wolf tied the game and forced overtime with her second-half goal.
"I think the girls had a belief in themselves and confidence in each other that they’d win," said McGinley. "The girls were very positive. You could see it in their eyes. Everyone did all the little things they needed to do to win."
Sam Germano gained the game winner for Hopewell in the second overtime.
Kim Fearnbach made 11 saves in net, to preserve the win for Hopewell , while Pennington led in shots, 18-13.
Fearnbach held the Spartans scoreless in the first half of the county final, but Steinert went ahead with two goals in the second half.
The first was harder to accept than the second just because of the circumstances of the goal. "Kim made a save and play continued for another 45 seconds," said McGinley, who explained how the side referee ruled the shot a goal, while the other let the teams play on. "If it was a goal, it was a goal, but it shouldn’t have been a save and then a goal a minute later. That’s what made it tougher, not that they scored, but how it happened."
Steinert scored again shortly thereafter, but McGinley felt Hopewell held its own in the final.
Fearnbach had 11 saves in the loss.
After those two tough teams, Hopewell had an easier time in a make-up game against Allentown on Monday.
The Bulldogs defeated the Redbirds, 8-1, behind four goals by Rosie Rarich and tallies by Lisa Petty, Leah Kulp, Margi Emhof and Rachel Muentener. Hopewell led in shots, 21-4, while Fearnbach made three saves.