Rebels fall to Francis Parker in sectional
Ridgewood's Annalisa Nardulli takes a shot on goal, during their regional championship game against Guerin Prep May 12. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun Times Media
Updated: July 2, 2012 9:06AM
The simplest way to evaluate a team’s performance are wins, losses, and trophies.
Another way a team is evaluated is to see if the team has improved from the opening of the season until the final whistle. Based on those criteria, the just completed Ridgewood girls soccer season is nothing but an overwhelming success.
The Rebels fell just short of a sectional championship losing to Francis Parker 2-1 on a converted penalty kick in double-overtime on May 18. Ridgewood reached the sectional final with a 4-0 lightning-shortened win over Wells on May 15.
“I think the girls became more comfortable with each other,” said Ridgewood head coach Kenneth Caslin. “They stayed solid and took responsibility of their roles better. They played high competition. Improving is essential, and it makes coaches happy to see it and to see them do it with the collectiveness and passion that you just can teach. You just have to try to pull it right out of them.”
Ridgewood (9-12-2) had faced Parker earlier in the year and lost 3-0 to the Colonels. This time, they were able to take the lead just 65 seconds into the first half. Senior Michelle Ryczek did her thing again scoring on yet another free kick. She hit it from 29 yards out for her 14th goal of the season.
Parker tied it up just six minutes later, beating senior goalkeeper Mallory McCormack for the first time of the playoffs. The Rebels almost got the game-winner with two minutes left in regulation on another Ryczek free kick when she smacked it off the crossbar.
“The ball kind of slowed down like it always does,” Ryczek said of her goal. “I’m always trying for the upper 90 because it’s harder for the goalkeeper to get it. There’s not much to say (about the shot that hit the bar). I’m really disappointed but glad that I got that chance.”
Less than five minutes into the second overtime session, Ridgewood’s season would come to an end in a very difficult way. Penalty kicks are hard to come by in sudden-death overtime, but Parker benefitted from such a call and Evan Fencik beat McCormack with her spot kick to claim the sectional title.
Ryczek finished the season as the team’s top goal scorer. She scored three times in the sectional semifinal over Wells. Senior Annalisa Nardulli opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a curling shot from about 12 yards out for her third goal of the year. Ryczek took a pass from Nardulli three minutes later and flicked it with the outside of her right foot and past the goalkeeper. She then finished the hat trick with a 28-yard free kick and a goal straight off a corner kick before halftime. Lightning ended the game less than a minute into the second half.
In the playoffs, Ryczek notched eight goals in just four playoff games. Six of those goals came directly from set plays. While she earned much deserved praise for her free-kick prowess, she realizes that more went into scoring those goals than just the accuracy and power in her right leg.
“My teammates are the ones who are getting fouled,” Ryczek said. “I have time to shoot on goal while they all have bruises. Those goals are all because of them.”
There were 12 seniors on the playoff roster, 10 of whom started the final for the Rebels, so that will leave a lot for Caslin to replace heading into next year. Along with Ryczek, Megi Aliaj moves on after being the team’s second leading scorer at four goals. Key defenders Danielle Rzewnicki (2 goals) and Jessica Rzewnicki (2), Krissy Sass (1), and Eliza Krystofczyk leave a void in the back, and McCormack’s one season in goal proved to be an experiment that worked out pretty well. Nardulli leaves a spot possibly for her sister Cettina (1) up top while steady midfielder Kasia Pszczola (1) also moves on.
“I’m proud to have seen them do the right things on and off the field and showing a lot of class,” Caslin said. “They feel like daughters or little sisters to me, and they make me proud. I’m sad to see the seniors go. They’re a big and strong bunch, and we’re going to have to do a lot of work, and I hope we have another great group of seniors.”