Ruggiero Game-Winner Sends Spartans to Sweet 16
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. -- It was a team meeting in the 6-yard box for the Monument Mountain girls soccer team on Friday afternoon.
And the Spartans decided to keep their state championship hopes alive.
Olivia Ruggiero scored out of the mixer in the 72nd minute to complete a 2-1, come-from-behind victory over Arlington Catholic to send No. 16 Monument Mountain into the Sweet 16.
Ava Gamberoni scored the game-tying goal midway through the second half, and Emily Mead stopped five shots.
The contest was decided on a corner kick from the left wing with about nine minutes left in regulation.
Cougar keeper Kira Wilcox (four saves) got a touch on the entry, but it popped up and appeared to come down behind her and into the goal mouth. Several players from both teams fought to get a boot on it, and it squirted out to Ruggiero, who knocked it into the goal to put the Spartans on top.
“We’ve been working a lot in practice on crashing the goalkeeper, and we knew coming in that that’s how we were going to score our goals,” Ruggiero said.
Monument Mountain’s celebration was delayed momentarily as the players appeared unsure whether the goal was counted before the Cougars cleared the ball out of their net. But once they realized the referee was signaling to bring the ball out to midfield, Ruggiero was mobbed by her teammates.
“I was freaking out,” she said. “It was pretty close. It was a tough call for the ref because there were so many girls in there. It crossed a couple of times, but he got third one, so I was pretty happy about that.”
No one on the Monument Mountain side was happy in the first half.
After the Spartans were frustrated on a few trips into the final third without a quality chance to show for it, Arlington Catholic hit Monument Mountain with a counter in the 13th minute for the game’s first goal.
Gabby Bilong did the honors with a high arcing shot from the top of the 18 to put the Cougars ahead, 1-0.
For a long time, it looked like that goal might hold up.
But in the 55th minute, Abby Kinne fired a shot from about 9 yards that Wilcox was able to block, but the rebound came out to Gamberoni on the right wing, and she drilled a shot into the far corner of the net to level the score at 1-1.
Ruggiero said the Spartans were a little surprised to find themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard at half-time.
“I think at half-time, we talked about, we need to pick up the pressure, we need to press the girls and capitalize on their mistakes,” she said. “That’s just what we did.
“It was unfortunate, but it was a good take by [Bilong]. We just knew we had to bring the energy up. That’s what we talked about at half-time. We knew that we can score. We just have to be confident on the ball, play to feet and we’ll get the goal.”
Monument Mountain next week will face either No. 33 Sturgis Charter West or No. 1 Cohasset, who meet on Saturday afternoon in the Round of 32.