WOOLWICH – There is not much that escapes Washington Township’s Amanda Attanasi when she is on the soccer pitch.
On Monday, while alternating between striker and an attacking midfielder, the diminutive Attanasi tried to pick her spots, and work through a Kingsway defense that clearly understood she was the Minutemaids top scoring threat. In fact, despite an assist that weighed heavily on the final outcome, the one-on-one battle between Attanasi and Kingsway center back Alexa Evernham clearly favored Evernham until the final second.
“You play until the final buzzer,” Attanasi said. “I saw an opening and that’s all it took.”
Attanasi ran onto a ball sent in from 40 yards by Giovanna Castorina and flicked it home with :03 left in the first overtime for a 2-1 golden goal win for Township in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals. The Minutemaids (17-3-3), ranked No. 4 in the SJSD Top 10, will play host to Toms River North which beat Clearview 4-0 in the other semifinal game, Thursday at Washington Township in a 2 p.m. start. North (19-2-0) has won 15-of-16 games and will come in ready to defend the same title in one a year ago at Eastern.
For No.7 Kingsway, the loss had the added sting of coming late on an afternoon they did more than enough to secure a victory.
“It was really tough to go into overtime after they scored so late,” Kingsway head coach Jayme Kent said. “We led this game at halftime and we played them hard all afternoon. I didn’t know how we would come out to start overtime, but I think the girls stepped up and really had some chances.”
On their home surface, the Dragons (15-3-2) used a more aggressive approach both on and off the ball to control the early portion of the game. While it appeared the Minutemaids were more than prepared for restarts to come to them, the Dragons consistently won 50-50 balls and pressured Township across the field. At the midway point, one of those 50-50’s put Kingsway on the break and Township senior Breana Winder got called for a foul in the box which led to a Sam Emmi penalty kick and a 1-0 lead.
“It was early in the game so we had plenty of time,” said Winder, who proved to be the most physical force on the Township side of the ball. “But it’s frustrating the longer you go without a goal. I don’t think I was ever worried but I admit it started to weigh a little heavy on us.’
“I feel that we had the better of the play in the second half, but we didn’t get enough quality scoring chances so yeah, that clock started to look pretty ugly,” Township head coach Bill Alvaro said. “We had to push up and the more we did the better our chances were.”
With just under four minutes left in the game, Attanasi corralled the ball in the midfield. The freshman has enough skill to put any defense on its heels and, in this case, she did that and found Castorina to her right. Castorina took the pass and found the back left corner of the net to tie the game 1-1 with 3:48 left to play.
“When I get in that situation I like to dribble right at a defender,” Attanasi said. “You put them into the negative and it opens things up. I saw (Castorina) and she finished off the play.”
“Amanda gave me a great pass and the goalie came out on me,” Castorina said. “All I had to do was pass it in the corner and that’s what I did.’
Tied at 1-1, Township maintained the momentum and even with a defensive formation change pressed forward until Kingsway hit a counter. Winder again took a chance and knocked the attacker down good enough for a yellow card, but outside the penalty area and Kingsway sent the restart high to set up overtime.
“I went in shoulder-to-shoulder,” Winder said. “I couldn’t let the (penalty kick in the first half) get to me. You have to play the right way and my job was to not let her get behind me.
“When we tied it, there was relief but we had to keep working.”
With the first 10 minute overtime winding down, Township had its final chance.
“I saw the clock, it was 12 seconds left,” said Attanasi of the scoreboard in the corner of the field’s west end. “I saw Giovanna still dribbling so she didn’t know the time left, at least I don’t think so. She played it over and all I had to do was tap it in”
On the play, Castorina seemed to catch Kingsway’s back line off guard and it sailed within inches of a defenders head. Attanasi found her way clear and score not only the game winner but her 27th goal of the year which set a school record.
From that point, Township exploded into chaos as Kingsway battled the emotions of the minute.
“I didn’t hear the buzzer so I’m guessing there’s more time left,” Attanasi said. “Then everyone is telling it’s like .3 seconds left. After that I just blanked out and everyone dogpiled on me.”
“It’s the best feeling ever,” Castorina said. “The best felling in the world.”
“It was elation,” Winder said.
Minutemaids 2, Dragons 1 OT
1 2 OT F
Wash Twp. 0---1---1---2
Goals: Giovanna Castorina, Amanda Attanasi, WT; Sam Emmi, K. Saves: Jordynn Stallard, WT, 5; Mauri Jackson, K, 8.
TOMS RIVER NORTH (19-2-0)
Conference: Shore A-South
Leading scorer: Jenna Royson, 11
Keeper: Cameron Kennett
Of Note: Defending SJ Group 4 champions have won 15-of-16 games.
WASHINGTON TWP (17-3-3)
Conference: Olympic American
Leading scorer: Amanda Attanasi
Keeper: Jordynn Stallard.
Of Note: Attanasi is now the single season record holder for goals. She passed Jeannine Valero who did it in 2006.