By Rich Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
SUMMIT – If there is a team that knows how to deal with pressure game after game, it is the Ridgewood girls lacrosse team. As the two-time defending Tournament of Champions winners and riding a 42-game winning streak against in-state opponents, the Maroons know they are going to get their opponents’ best shot every time they step on the field. Such was the case in a hard-fought 14-11 season-opening win over Morris Knolls on Saturday and it was more of the same on the road on Tuesday as Kent Place gave them everything they could handle.
But what has made Ridgewood so successful over the years is the knack of having different players step up during crunch time. With All-American Kelci Smesko on the field but clearly hampered by an ankle injury, Kaitlin Concilio picked up the scoring slack when her team needed her the most.
Concilio followed up a career-high five-goal performance in the win over Morris Knolls with four more, none of which were more important than her final tally. She took a pass from Katie Smesko and bounced in a hard shot with 3:18 to go for the final margin as Ridgewood survived a stern test and earned a 9-7 victory at the Kent Place School in Summit.
“We’re still trying to get our players to mesh together, but the important thing was that we found a way to win today,” said Ridgewood head coach Karla Mixon. “I think this game showed the kind of heart we have, but it also shows that we have a long way to go before we can reach the goals we set for this season.”
The Maroons came out firing early with goals by Maggie Carver and Concilio. But the Dragons battled back to tie the game at 2 and again at 3 on a goal by Anna Doherty, who posed problems for the Ridgewood defense all game.
Concilio followed by snapping the tie 36 seconds after Doherty’s goal. Kelci Smesko, who sat out the season-opener, and Meghan Roxas each scored late in the first half to give Ridgewood a 7-4 lead at the break.
Kent Place proved to be quite pesky as consecutive goals by Doherty pulled the team back within a goal, 8-7, with 6:33 to play. After gaining possession, Doherty had a chance to tie the game, but Ridgewood keeper Zoe Ferguson was up to the task. With less than four minutes to play, she made a huge save on the shot from close range and Courtney Tarleton was able to bat the ball off a defender and out of bounds to give Ridgewood possession. It was the last time the Dragons had possession of the ball.
Off the ensuing restart, Katie Smesko took a pass and raced over 60 yards up the middle of the field untouched. When the defense finally shifting toward her she slipped a pass to Concilio, who bounced a quick shot past Kent Place keeper Alex Huff to make it 9-7 with 3:18 to play.
Lauren Beausoleil, who recorded three ground balls and was making plays all over the field, won the face-off and Ridgewood ran out the clock to avoid the upset.