“The transition was smooth; our defense was relentless, and we finished strong on the attack,” junior midfielder Fiona McDonald said of No. 7 Glen Rock’s 20-13 win over Verona in the opening round of the North 1, Group 2 state tournament.
“It was a great game, probably one of our best team games of the season,” added senior midfielder Maggie Egan. “A key part of winning the game was winning the draw controls, which translated to more offensive opportunities and chances to score. Even though the offense did a great job controlling the ball, it really started from the great defensive game our team played. With Claire Gallo in net, and the defense, led by Katie Burke and Mel Rosen, we were able to cause turnovers and keep Verona’s shots to a minimum. Everyone played really hard and hustled until the last whistle.”
The Panthers (9-8) went through an up-and-down season. Glen Rock won its first two games before dropping its next four in a row. There was a four-game winning streak around the Bergen County tournament before the Panthers were eliminated by No. 2 Indian Hills. Glen Rock dropped its next game to Morristown before defeating Mount Olive, 19-9, in its last regular season game.
The Panthers dealt with injuries and added two new players — sophomore defender Meghan Donohue and midfielder Kate Mackie, both transfers from Immaculate Heart Academy — who became eligible in the final month of the season.
But on May 16 against Verona, for whatever rhyme or reason, everything clicked.
“The chemistry was there,” said Egan, who finished her career with over 100 goals scored. “Everyone was playing their roles.”
“We really wanted to make up for the losses we had,” said McDonald, a fellow 100-goal scorer. “We’ve never been so pumped up for a game. We stuck to our game plan, listened to our coaches and each other and left all our nerves on the bench.”
Glen Rock had its highest offensive output in the contest.
“Throughout the season, we’ve been having trouble playing a full 50-minute game, starting and ending strong,” Egan said. “I think we finally accomplished and fulfilled that goal.”
In last year’s state tournament, the Panthers also defeated Verona in the opening round, but only by three goals.
The season ended with a second-round loss to Essex County champion Glen Ridge, 12-8, on Monday.
“At the half, we had them,” McDonald said. “Against such a great team, it was exciting to be neck-and-neck with them for most of the game.”
Glen Rock head coach Taryn Tabano noted her team fell behind “after losing too many possessions and draw controls in the second half.”
While the Panthers didn’t come away with a win, they still closed the gap against Glen Ridge, having lost to the Ridgers by 10 goals, also in the second round, in last year’s state tournament.
Next week, the Panthers will announce captains for the 2014 squad. And because of the way Glen Rock closed out, McDonald admits she’s eager to start playing again already.
“Next year, we are going to come out on fire,” she said.