Columbia Girls Soccer Eliminated
Cougars lose 1-0 in double overtime to Hunterdon-Central.
The Columbia girls soccer team’s surprising turnaround season came to an end Thursday afternoon at Meadowland Park. The Cougars lost 1-0 in double overtime to Hunterdon-Central in the quarterfinal round of the North II Group 4 state sectional championships.
“What I told the girls was that some teams have a good season, a bad season or a great season. But what they had was an historic season,” said Columbia head coach Stephen Jones. “They’ve changed the culture, they’ve changed 15 years of losing seasons, and they’re playing with teams at the top of the state, and they could have easily won this game today.”
After playing each other to a stalemate for nearly 100 minutes, the Red Devils' top scorer, Cora Littlejohns, found a bouncing ball in the box, created separation from the defense and blasted a shot into the left-side netting of the goal, just past the arms of Cougar keeper Amy French.
“It was a good goal. I told my girls that it was going to come down to a mistake, but it didn’t. I’m happy that it didn’t,” Jones said. “It was just a special goal by a special player.”
Neither team had been able to muster much offensively, with limited shots on goal and a game played mainly in the middle 60 percent of the field. Columbia had many runs down to the Red Devil side of the field but was consistently unable to put a cross in front of the net for a scoring opportunity.
“I just think they had a more athletic team than what we’ve played probably, and their fullbacks were able to put pressure on us as we were trying to cross it… I would give credit to them rather than take anything from us,” Jones said.
The same could be said for the Flemington school, which saw its fair share of time in front of Columbia’s net, only to see the ball cleared.
Columbia, which had not been to the playoffs in 12 years and had a remarkable turnaround this season, had a chance to come away with the win, but was unable to get a clean shot on goal for most of the contest. Both teams played mistake-free for most of the game, and it appeared that it would be heading for a shootout until Littlejohns's goal.
As Jones pointed out after the game, despite what the girls accomplished this season, they were looking for more. They were hoping to move on to the state semis and keep their dream season alive.
“I think in a few days it will [feel better], but I think the girls expected to be playing on Monday,” Jones said.
The Cougars will lose 10 players to graduation in June but have a large group of returnees, who will look to build off of this year’s surprising success. The Cougars ended their season with a 10-5-5 record, while Hunterdon-Central improved to 15-4-4.
“We’ll miss some seniors, definitely, for their personalities, as well as their playing abilities, but we have 18 varsity players returning,” Jones said.