HILLSBOROUGH: Raider girls fall short in OT

By Justin Feil, The Packet Group
   Had the Hillsborough High School girls soccer team finished a couple of its early chances, the outcome of Monday’s Central Jersey Group IV tournament opener might have been different.
   The 12th-seeded Raiders’ season ended with a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in the final seconds of overtime at fifth-seeded Freehold Borough.
   ”Probably within the first 10 minutes that we should have buried two,” said Hillsborough head coach Lee Ann Best after her team finished the year 9-9-2. “We had chances.”
   The Raiders had a long bus ride to Freehold and were playing their first game on grass this season. They were still adjusting to the different surface when they created their first good opportunities. Through the ebb and flow of the game, the Raiders never stopped looking for the chance to help them advance.
   ”Two minutes left in the game, we were all over them with chances,” Best said. “Throughout the game, we probably had four or five good chances to score and they maybe had two or three. “We probably had more shots. The first overtime, I thought we were going to get it. The very end of the first overtime, they got a run and got a corner with 10 seconds left and put it in.”
   It might have been Hillsborough celebrating had they sustained their early game attack. It was the Raiders that could not continue to generate scoring threats while Freehold picked up steam.
   ”Slowly but surely as the first half ended, the momentum slowly changed from us to them,” Best said. “They didn’t have a lot of chances, but they were good off corners. They controlled the ball in the second half. We got in a rut. We weren’t pressuring the ball and passes.”
   As the Raiders had been throughout the season, their level of play seemed to correlate with their level of motivation.
   ”We were hot and cold,” Best said. “Senior Night, we had a good game. Our second game against Ridge, they beat us bad the first time, so we wanted to reverse it. Today, there was no connection, so no emotion. When some of the emotional leaders stepped up, the rest of the team would get behind them. They can’t be getting everyone up every game.”
   The Raiders defense kept the contest scoreless through all of regulation while it bided time for the offense to score.
   ”Our defense was typically good all season,” Best said. “We don’t traditionally score a lot of goals, but it was perfect when we were clicking on all cylinders. When we didn’t score, we struggled. As long as we scored, we’d usually have a very good game.”
   The Raiders may not have finished their season where they wanted to, but they have something strong to launch from for next year. HHS will graduate eight seniors, four that started, including goalie Kat Albanese, who was credited with 18 saves against Freehold.
   ”I felt like we did have a lot of young talent,” Best said. “I feel that them having started this year gives them a huge start for next year. I started two freshmen. I had two or three sophomores starting every game. To have that same core back is really good. Even those that didn’t start or play a lot, there’s a lot of talent there. There’s a good eighth grade class coming up too.”