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RIDGWAY - Ridgway girls soccer used a late goal to propel the Lady Elkers to a 3-2 victory over Elk County Catholic Thursday afternoon at Francis S. Grandinetti Elementary School.
"ECC played an awesome game," Ridgway coach Greg Maddalena said. "They're a different team from the last time we played them. They had a great game plan for us. I won't take anything away from ECC, they're a great program, with a great coaching staff. They were ready for us. Our girls always step up to that challenge. They always raise their level of play, they know what they can do and then we're on the winning side."
Ridgway (11-1) striker Rhianon Fowler had the game-winning goal with 6:26 left in the second half as she took advantage of a mishit from the ECC goalkeeper. An ECC defender passed back to the keeper and the ball spun to her right and to Fowler who was able to put the ball in the net for the game-winning goal.
After an evenly-played first 18 minutes, Courtney Bush made a long run down the right side of the field and drew a penalty kick after a foul for a push. Gabbi Benninger took the penalty kick and placed it in the lower right corner to put the Lady Elkers up 1-0 with 22:20 left in the first half.
The Lady Crusaders (3-6-1) would answer with 5:36 left in the first half as Abbi Petrosky was able to make a long run of her own down the right side and score in the lower left corner to tie the matchup at 1-all.
But less than a minute later, Ridgway would answer as Bush would score and put Ridgway ahead 2-1, the score entering halftime.
"That goal really hurt," Elk County Catholic coach Don Fabiano said. "It looked like we were going to pick up some momentum at that point but it was not to be.
The Lady Crusaders had chances in the first half, including seven corner kicks.
"We had some great chances in that first half," Fabiano said. "Especially with the seven corner kicks our team had. We were getting to the ball first. It was only shooting a couple wide and some big plays by our opponent that kept the ball out of the net."
Maddalena said he was worried about surrendering corner kicks to the Lady Crusaders because of how well they execute them.
"They're a good corner kick team," Maddalena said. "In the (Bucktail) tournament, we gave them six corner kicks and we were lucky they didn't capitalize but they're well-coached at that. We're taking it one game at a time for an 80-minute game. We're not taking anybody lightly. We knew they were going to be ready for us."
Elk County Catholic took advantage as Petrosky looped a centering pass from the corner to Jena Struble, Struble would convert for the tying goal. Maddalena said a formational change was used at halftime so the Lady Elkers could get more possession in midfield.
"We changed our formation at halftime," Maddalena said. "The second half we went to a 4-5-1 to give me more possession and we dominated possession the second half. They scored, they finished. They beat a good team. They're very excited. We're 11-1 and we're taking it one game at a time. They're hungry for playoff time and positioning. It's all about everybody performing, everybody as a team. ECC's a great program."
Maddalena noticed the success of the 4-5-1 in Ridgway's victory over ECC at the Bucktail Tournament.
"We changed it at the tournament and it worked really well for us, we kept more possession," Maddalena said. "I wanted more possession. What I like about this team is we're able to change formations."
Fabiano said the Lady Crusaders are showing strong resolve.
"I think this game shows that this team still has some fight in them," Fabiano said. "It just seems as though we are very close but can't get over the hump. The team has nothing be ashamed of. There was a great intensity and enthusiasm throughout the whole team.
Fabiano said the Lady Crusaders executed their game plan well.
"The whole team did a fantastic job of carrying through with our game plan," Fabiano said. "Michelle Imbrogno, Morgan Onink and Sam Zimmerman did a great job marking key opponents. Hanna Onink was strong in goal. Emma Daghir, Jena Struble and Marissa Heary did a superb job in the midfield. And let's not forget the job Jordon Lenox, Kendra Dornisch and Jessica Franco did coming off the bench."
Ridgway moves to 11-1, the 11 wins marks a new all-time season-high for the Lady Elker soccer program.
"It's just a really good feeling, they're all really pumped," Maddalena said. "This is our best season ever. We're 11-1 and we're not done. We got practice the rest of the week and one game next week, so a lot of practice. Each and every girl is very determined heading into the playoffs."
Ridgway hosts Port Allegany at 4 p.m. Wednesday. The Lady Crusaders will be at Punxsutawney for a 10 a.m. Saturday.