Westwood earns a spot in section final for first time since 2001

Westwood freshman Meghan Reidel put away a corner kick in the 56th minute to make the difference in the Cardinals' 1-0 win over Ramsey in the North 1, Group 2 state sectional semifinals.

RAMSEY – On a corner kick situation there is no telling where the ball might end up. It might be punched away by a goalkeeper, headed away by a teammate or knocked away by a defender all in those few harried seconds inside the 18 yard box and some players, even the most experienced of players, might find it hard to fight the temptation to get involved in the initial scrum, especially in the second half of a scoreless game in the do-or-die format of the state sectional playoffs.

Westwood freshman Meghan Reidel never wavered amidst the chaos. Rather than being sucked up into the mixer in front of the net, she kept her space and maintained her responsibilities at the back post. That put her in the perfect position to make the difference.

Elisa Peabody struck the corner kick, Carlye Danziger flicked it on and Reidel was right where she was supposed to be and swept home the game’s lone goal in the 56th minute of Westwood 1-0 win over Ramsey in the North 1, Group 2 state sectional semifinals. The victory sends the third-seeded Cardinals into a section final for the first time since 2001 and, because ninth-seeded Sparta took out No. 1 Lakeland in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals and then beat Kittatinny, 1-0, on Monday, Westwood will be the home team as it tries to win its first section crown in 16 years.

“In the game of soccer you can’t waste your opportunities. One usually does it in a game like this. We had an opportunity and we couldn’t let it slip away,” said Reidel. “The ball went through all of the defenders and I was the last person back there. I just focused on making sure I put the shot on goal and not let anything get in the way of that.”

Alexa Correa was in the middle of some of Ramsey's best chances.

It’s not like a coach can pass off “Be in the right place at the right time” as a tangible strategy, but Westwood’s Eric Pfeifer has prepared his team for the ‘be in the right place’ just in case the right time does come. Reidel has clearly gotten the message.

“You never know when it is going to happen, but there are some things that they can control such as effort, winning 50/50 balls, keeping the ball in the attacking zone. That is effort and you can motivate them to provide that and then it is just a matter of how it plays out on the field,” said Pfeifer. “It was going to be a scrappy goal that was going to win this game and that is what that was. It was a loose ball and a matter of who wanted it more. Meghan Reidel, a freshman, steps up. Clutch.”

These teams are so evenly matched that it was going to take some kind of scramble for one of them to break through. Both defenses were stout and Westwood had a clear game plan to make Ramsey shoot from distance rather than at the end of runs inside the box.

“We wanted to make them settle for that. They have three girls that can hit the daylights out of the ball and we really had to keep them off their right foot. We did a good job of keeping them off their strong foot,” said Pfeifer. “My defenders were locked in and I have to give them the credit for that.”

Senior Carlye Danziger got the assist on the game's lone goal by heading on a corner kick.

Westwood had the early advantage in chances created as it earned two corner kicks in the first in the first seven minutes and Lucie Gehringer just missed wide right with a header on the second of those two restarts. The Cardinals then got unlucky in the 18th minute when Sarah Levy ate up the space in front of her with two power dribbles before ringing the right post with her shot from just inside the 18.

Ramsey’s best first half chance came when Alexa Correa, in full sprint, was within reach of catching up to a well-weighted through ball from Julia Bressi, but Westwood keeper Camryn Collova was quick off her line and slid out to break up the chance before it got truly dangerous.

Westwood had two more chances in the final three minutes of the first half. A Danziger header off a diagonal free kick struck by Erin Wilson finished just wide in the 37th minute and a nifty slip pass by Gehringer was smothered by Ramsey keeper Katie Sylvester just before finding its moving target 50 seconds before the whistle was blown.

Ramsey put together a creative try early in the second half when Alexa Correa hit a rolling corner kick toward Cassie Phillips, who was in a full sprint running parallel to goal with a defender right on her back. Instead of trying to simply knock the ball on into traffic, Phillips let herself get megged, dummying the ball in the box and it rolled right to Lauren Chamberlin, who redirected it on goal. Collova, however, was not fooled and scooped up the shot just in front of her goal line.

Both teams were doing everything they could think of to get that elusive first goal.

Katie Sylvester making a save for Ramsey, which finished its season with a 12-3-5 record.

“We knew it was going to be a one-goal game. We knew it was going to be a battle,” said Ramsey head coach Kevin Sabella. “We had plenty of opportunities, especially early in the second half, to put a goal in or two. It was an even game and today Westwood was one goal better.”

That goal came with 24:48 remaining in regulation and after Westwood pulled back some numbers to try to see out the game. That led to a couple of flurries late on as Ramsey had two corner kicks on the same sequence in the 70th minute and had three corner kicks and two long throw-ins from deep on the touchline that could have been dangerous in the final three minutes, but Westwood’s defense held firm.

“My team was so strong in front of me. It was all of us screaming, communicating, calling out plays and it was so fluid. We knew what to do and it was almost like every time I called something out my team was already one step ahead of me knowing what I was going to say,” said Collova, Westwood’s senior goalkeeper. “We had to stay strong, finish the game and follow through on all of the things we have been taught. We cleared every single ball and we stayed calm.”

Westwood’s only loss of the season came in the Bergen County Tournament quarterfinals against Ramapo and it is on quite a roll heading into a home game in the section final with a 16-1-3 record. Ramsey saw its season, its first under Sabella, at 12-3-5 with an impressive list of accomplishments of its own.

“I am proud of my girls. They were league champs and they got to a county final for the first time in 15 years. Yeah, this is going to sting tonight, but maybe in the next couple of days they will be able to look back and realize that this was really a special year,” said Sabella. “The seniors on this team I has as freshman when I helped out [former head coach] George [Wright] as the freshman coach. We made it to the final of the freshman county tournament, so I knew there was something special here already along with some talented underclassmen, when I took over. For the most part, the seniors especially, jumped on board, we set sail and we really had a great season.”