Ramapo keeps Westwood at bay

Mia Suchora's goal in the eighth minute stood up the rest of the way in Ramapo's 1-0 win over Westwood in the Bergen County Tournament quarterfinals.

OAKLAND – Ramapo head coach Sarah Francini knew all about Westwood’s penchant for late comeback victories against strong teams. She did not want her team to fall victim to the same fate, especially in Sunday’s Bergen County Tournament quarterfinal round, but after an early goal, there the Green Raiders were; having to fight off their never-say-die opponent for the entire second half. The Ramapo defense bent several times throughout the final 40 minutes, but it never broke.

Ramapo’s back line along with goaltender Natalie Kologrivov hung the first clean sheet against Westwood all season and subsequently handed the Cardinals their first loss they have seen all year. Freshman Mia Suchora’s eighth minute goal stood up to lift the second-seeded Green Raiders past No. 7 Westwood, 1-0, and into the Bergen County semifinals at Indian Hills High School in Oakland.

“Westwood was relentless in the second half and had us on the ropes,” said Ramapo head coach Sarah Francini. “Having three in the back who are all very smart and can all mark really well is a nice luxury for a coach. They put so much pressure on us though that we had to put a fourth player in the back to have that extra security. The wind was really a big factor but we limited their opportunities to get the ball on net.”

Lucie Gehringer and Westwood were right in the game the whole way.

Right from the opening whistle Ramapo took control of the possession game in the midfield and it did not take long to find the back of the net. Suchora took the space in front of her before touching the ball to the right around a challenge from a Cardinal defender. Suchora then bent a 25-yard shot around a sea of players in front and into the upper-right hand corner to put the Green Raiders in front 1-0.

“I think our girls were definitely taken by surprise by just how fast the Ramapo players are,” said Westwood head coach Eric Pfiefer. “I think it took us awhile to get adjusted to how fast they are and how well they play together. But once we settled and realized that we could play them we started to become more aggressive.”

As the half went on the Cardinals started to win 50-50 balls and shut down Ramapo’s runs. Although they were still trailing at the half it gave them the hope that another miraculous comeback was not impossible.

Over the final 40 minutes Westwood spent nearly that entire stretch in Ramapo’s end of the field. The Cardinals had a major edge in terms of possession but were unable to find many legitimate scoring opportunities. The best two came minutes apart on a cross from Lucie Gehringer that skipped through the box and a long free kick that went over the crossbar as Ramapo survived the storm and came out the other side with a berth in the Bergen County semifinals.

Natalie Kologrivov made three saves to keep the clean sheet for Ramapo, which will play Ramsey in the semifinals.

Suchora has now scored in each of the past four games for Ramapo (11-1-1). She is tied for the team lead with MaryClare Langan, each of them having 10 goals this season. Kologrivov needed to make just three saves to earn the shutout.

Camryn Collova finished with six saves for Westwood, which is also 11-1-1. The Cardinals still have plenty to play for. If they win their final three Big North-Patriot Division league games they will clinch the first league title in the history of the girls’ soccer program.

Ramapo heads into its usual spot in the Bergen County semifinals where it will take on sixth-seeded Ramsey, a 2-1 winner in overtime over upstart Glen Rock. That game will be played at River Dell High School in Oradell with a 2:00 P.M. start.

“We know that we have to be better than we were today or we’re going to have our hands full in the semis,” said Francini. “Getting quality opportunities is something we’re very capable of doing. But we have to finish those opportunities to keep advancing. The deeper you go into this tournament the tougher it is to put the ball in the net.”