RUMSON – It wasn’t about a dominating regular season – or even about success within its own conference.
For the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School girls’ soccer team, everything came together at just the right time.
As a seven-seed, the Bulldogs, which finished 16-7-1, bruised their way to the Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional final, when they knocked off fourth-seeded Delran High School, 3-1, on Nov. 14.
RFH posted wins in that tournament over 10-seeded Manasquan High School, 2-1, 15-seeded Cinnaminson High School, 4-1, and third-seeded Rahway High School, 2-0, before beating Delran in the final.
“We prepared for that tournament one day at a time,” RFH coach Mary Beth Coleman said. “We knew it was going to be tough because (A-Central rival) Holmdel was on the other side of the bracket, and we had lost to them in the regular season.”
Top-seeded Holmdel High School was eventually ousted by Delran in the semifinal round.
After winning the sectional title, RFH went on to win the overall Group 2 title with a win over West Deptford High School in the semifinal and a 2-1 win over Bernards High School in the Group 2 final on Nov. 23.
“It’s very special for us, especially because we were a very young team with only one senior captain,” Coleman said. “We peaked at the right time and that’s all you could ever ask for as a coach.”
In the Group 2 finals tournament, Rumson put together a pair of one-goal wins (1-0 over West Deptford in double overtime and 2-1 over Bernards). That success, according to Coleman, goes back to the regular season, when the Bulldogs went 6-1-1 in overtime games.
“Going through those (overtime) games and getting that experience really helped us,” Coleman said. “We learned how to capitalize on our opportunities. With the golden goal (sudden death), the girls never wanted to see their season end.
Rumson was a 16-seed in the Shore Conference Tournament and beat 17-seeded Mater Dei Prep High School in the first round before falling to top-seeded Freehold Borough High School in the second round.
“The girls really did step up when we had a lot of injuries,” Coleman said. “I had brought up some JV players to fill in for those injured varsity players, and they really filled in well. Toward the end of the season, we started getting some of the injured players back and we really had a lot of chemistry with different people because so many of them had experience.”
Although Coleman admitted it might not have been the team’s expectation to win its first state championship outright since 2008, she did say the bar is set high for the future.
“I knew we’d be competitive, but it’s difficult when you have Manasquan and Holmdel in your division. It’s fantastic to win,” Coleman said. “Things are looking for a bright future. We’re bringing back a lot of players and we’re only losing one senior, although she will be difficult to replace.”
Freshman Grace Forsyth, who scored the game-winning goal in the Group 2 final over Bernards, finished as the team’s leading scorer. She scored 15 goals and added five assists on the year.
Schuyler DeBree, the lone senior on the team, added 12 goals and posted 10 assists for the season.