GLASSBORO – Klio Kokolis will probably play in many more games and she’ll score many more goals in her remaining three years as a member of the Eastern High School girls soccer teams.
But few of those games are likely to be more memorable and few of those goals are likely to carry as much meaning as the one she scored on Tuesday night.
Kokolis’ goal with 4:21 remaining in the second overtime lifted the Vikings to a 2-1 win over Hunterdon Central in a Group 4 state semifinal game played at Rowan University.
With the win, the Vikings advanced to their first state championship game since 2006 and will play Bridgewater-Raritan for the title Sunday at 10 a.m. at Kean University.
“It felt awesome – it felt amazing to score that,” said Kokolis, one of three freshman who see regular minutes on the Vikings team.
“I was just so happy for the team,” she said. “I was so happy that we’re going to the finals. It was just a great moment.”
The goal came on an assist from senior Ashley Pietraffita, who passed the ball from near the center of the box off to the left side.
Eastern scoring leaded Kelli McGroarty was in a position to get a foot on the ball, but she wisely elected to left the ball role through to Kokolis.
Given her opportunity to put her shot on frame from about 12 yards out, Kokolis didn’t miss it.
“Our outside defender (Pietraffita) put it across and I screamed to Kelli to give it to me,” Kokolis said. “She `dummied’ the ball and I just shot the ball with all that I had.”
You’d have to figure it was a difficult decision for McGroarty to fake a kick at the ball and let it roll through.
Earlier in the game, she tied the score for Eastern with her 36 goal of the season after Hunterdon Central had taken a 1-0 lead in the second half.
“When you’re down it means nothing,” McGroarty said “When they scored there still 27 minutes left, and we knew we still had a lot of time. Then we tied it and Klio finished it.”
McGroarty tied a single-single scored record with her goals and she smiled when recalling her decision to listen to her teammate and left the ball role through.
“I don’t think I was going to `dummy’ it,” she said. “But then I hear Klio screaming for it, and I said, `all right. Good luck.’’’
Pietraffita admitted she was looking to set up McGroarty for a head ball. But then she elected to ball on the ground, and that turned out to be the right call.
“It was on the ground and Kelli read it really well because Klio called for it from behind,” she said. “When it went in I couldn’t have been more excited.
“This is my senior year and I want nothing more than for this team to win a state championship. We’ve been working so hard for it.”
For a while, it looked like Eastern was going to waste a very good effort in a losing cause. McGroarty alone had several scoring chances, as the Vikings dominated the early portion of the game.
The Vikings dominated the first half with eight shots and six corner kicks, and yet fell behind early in the second half when Nicolette Carnevale scored on Hunterdon’s second shot of the game.
“We had so many good chances and we just didn’t finish,” said Eastern coach Jamie McGroarty. “Then all of a sudden you see a ball like that go in and you start thinking in the back if your mind, is this one of those days.”
But it turned out for the Vikings it wasn’t one of those days, not in a negative sense, anyway.
Kelli McGroarty saw to that when she tied the 10 minutes later and that Kokolis sealed the deal.
State Group 4 Semifinal
Eastern 0 1 1-2
Hunterdon Central 0 1 0-1
Goals: Kelli McGroarty, Klio Koklolis, E, Nicolete Carnevale, HC.
Goalies: Oliva Alves, E, (4 saves), Ava Gillickson, HC, (9 saves).