Instant analysis: Bergen County girls soccer quarterfinals

The top four seeds are all moving on to River Dell.

No. 1 Ridgewood will continue its title defense next Sunday in the Bergen County semifinals, when it takes on No. 4 Ramsey. The other semifinal pits No. 2 Ramapo and No. 3 Immaculate Heart in a rematch of the Opening Day match won by the Raiders in overtime.

Here's a closer look at the four teams who advanced from the quarterfinals at Indian Hills.

(4) Ramsey 2, (5) Northern Highlands 1

The minutes could not pass by soon enough for Nina Davis.

Ramsey seemed to be destined for its first semifinal trip in four years after the junior forward gave her team a two-goal lead not long after the halftime break. But the Rams had to hang on for dear life after a late charge by Northern Highlands.

Eight hours of soccer in Oakland culminated with a most intense ending.

"I was looking at the clock every five seconds," Davis said. "So stressful."

The emotion turned from stress to euphoria after the final whistle when Davis and her teammates bolted over to the Ramsey student section. Her goal in the 48th minute held up as the winner and gave Ramsey (10-1) its mojo back on the heels of its first loss.

Brianna Ward came off the bench to open the scoring for Ramsey in the 25th minute. It was a bit of redemption for the first-year varsity player after what she described as a rough game in her last match.

"I feel like as a team, we always push each other positively," Ward said. "You never get down on one another. You never put each other down for making silly mistakes. You always pick each other up. That's what gives me more motivation as a player."

Northern Highlands picked up the pressure in the second half, especially after Lyla Gellar poked home a shot from the left post. Ramsey had to withstand two good chances on a corner with just over two minutes left.

"I think this was one of our better games," Davis said. "Passing-wise, we were maybe a little off. But our work rate was there. Everyone was going 100 percent on the bench or on the field. The energy was amazing."

IHA plays River Dell in the Bergen County girls soccer quarterfinals at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, NJ on Saturday October 8, 2022. (From left) RD #7 Brianna Azevedo and IHA #18 Lindsay Ford.
IHA plays River Dell in the Bergen County girls soccer quarterfinals at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, NJ on Saturday October 8, 2022. (From left) RD #7 Brianna Azevedo and IHA #18 Lindsay Ford.

(3) Immaculate Heart 1, (11) River Dell 0

Immaculate Heart booked a trip back to the semifinal after an opportunistic win paved by its superstar striker and a moment of luck.

The Blue Eagles scored the only goal of the game early in the second half when Alex Barry banged in a cross from Caitlin Forshay. It was the 18th goal of the year for Barry, who doesn't seem to have skipped a beat after missing her sophomore season with a torn ACL.

"She's like an extension of the coaching staff on the field," coach Eric Pfeifer said. "She brings a calm presence and she understands what we want to do."

What Immaculate Heart wants to do is move the ball patiently on the ground by connecting short passes that make the opponent chase. That style kept River Dell from generating many high-danger chances in a game largely played between the 30's.

Pfeifer managed to "bog it up" even more in the second half by using an extra midfielder in front of defenders Sammy McGee, Cathryn Cunningham, Ella Burkholder and Dani Osorio.

"Being in the position to be one of the top four teams in the county is always a great thing," Pfeifer said. "It's what we strive for and it's something that they've been working towards. We're starting to jell a bit more, but today was a tough game. River Dell really tested us. Kudos to them."

The best chance for River Dell came off the foot of its most prominent offensive player: senior Brianna Azevedo. It was early in the second half when she crushed a shot from about 35 yards out that caromed off the top post.

"If you lose the ball to anyone, it can't be her," Pfeifer said. "She's so lethal."

Ramapo plays Paramus in the Bergen County girls soccer quarterfinals at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, NJ on Saturday October 8, 2022. (From left) P #21 Danielle Mullins, R #7 Grace Galucci and R #10 Kate Langfelder.
Ramapo plays Paramus in the Bergen County girls soccer quarterfinals at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, NJ on Saturday October 8, 2022. (From left) P #21 Danielle Mullins, R #7 Grace Galucci and R #10 Kate Langfelder.

(2) Ramapo 2, (7) Paramus 0

Ramapo turned up the heat in the second half to clinch its 19th straight trip to the semifinals – easily the longest active streak in Bergen County.

Coach Maddie Gibbs unleashed the Raiders offense with some tactical changes later on and broke through with goals from Cassie Tafuri Del Vecchio (44th minute) and Kaitlyn Arnold (67th minute). The Raiders started to find more openings after Tafuri Del Vecchio shifted from outside wing to centermid alongside Kate Langfelder. The juniors paired up for the winner with Tafuri Del Vecchio bouncing in a cross from the left side.

"I think moving her today was huge to be able to find her in different places," Gibbs said. "She's one of the hardest-working players and it shows. She finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net."

Ramapo outshot the Spartans, 13-3, and collected its seventh shutout behind senior goalie Maddie Kellogg. This was the third time that Ramapo has beaten Paramus this season.

"To come play a team three times is really hard," Gibbs said. "There's a mental way to prepare for those type of situations. It's not just the physical part of practice and skills."

(1) Ridgewood 6, (9) Pascack Valley 2

Isabella Winn and Kat Slott turned a slow start into an overwhelming finish.

Both scored a hat trick for Ridgewood to send the defending champions back to the semifinal round for the third straight tournament.

The undefeated and top-seeded Maroons (11-0) didn't panic after allowing the opening goal in the eighth minute on a set piece from Tara Stewart to Julia Conjour. Winn picked up points on the next three goals to give Ridgewood a 3-1 lead at the break.

"I feel like that's when we're the best," said Slott, a senior who's committed to play at Boston University. "When we're down one, we are very good at keeping our composure. I think our whole team stays relaxed. We trust each other a lot."

Winn (team-high 16 goals) and Slott (12) developed that trust well before last season when Ridgewood brought home its first BCWCA title since 1994. The two started playing together when Winn was "seven or eight" with only one grade between them.

"We don't really need to talk," Slott said. "We can just talk with the ball in a sense and work with each other. We know where we'll be since we've played with each other for so long."

Freshman Allie Polyniak added the second goal for Pascack Valley, but Slott's first career hat trick sealed the deal.

"Something that we've talked to the girls about for a long time in this program is try to possess the ball and have good composure on the ball," coach Pete Kay. "We want the back four to be involved in the game and be calm and composed. Definitely we have a lot of technical ability to be able to execute that."

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ girls soccer: Bergen County quarterfinals instant analysis