UNION _ Paige Restaino and Nathalia Gallo became acquainted as 7 year olds, brought together when they joined the Parsippany Soccer Club and were assigned to the Avalanche.
At Brooklawn Middle School, Restaino and Gallo served as captains before going on to Parsippany Hills High School.
The duo, according to Gallo, "connected right from the start."
Gallo and Restaino, both seniors, hooked up one last time, producing the lone goal for the Vikings in the Group II final on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Kean University. Parsippany Hills concluded its spectacular, abeit unlikely, state tournament run by blanking Haddonfield, 1-0, behind Restaino's goal with 9:19 remaining.
"I just felt like it'd go in if I could get the ball to Paige's head on the corner kick," said Gallo, the center midfielder. "I was confident. Lauren McLaughlin was going to take the corner kick but I said 'I'll do it.' I aimed for Paige even though she's short. She's good in the air. I got her and she got the ball in."
The 5-foot-1 Restaino saw the the corner kick headed her way and took charge, too, calling Gabby Gilgorri off. Restaino went up and the ball struck her forehead then found the net, glancing off the fingertips of Haddonfield goalie Maya Olimpio, who leaped to her left in an attempt to make the save.
"I told Gabby 'This is mine. I've got it,'" Restaino said. "I felt so bad that I missed one earlier. I wanted another chance."
Restaino failed to convert eight minutes earlier, heading the ball off a corner play set in motion by McLaughlin but sending it over the goal.
"It felt great to get that goal," Restaino said. "This whole thing is indescribable. Since preseason in June, we've been saying we'd win this and here we are. We did it."
Gallo estimated that she and Restaino have combined for at least 10 game-winning scores over the last decade. None of them was as important or as memorable as this one. The group title was the first in school history for the girls soccer program. The sectional crown, attained with a double overtime win versus sister school Parsippany, was a first as well.
"Oh, my God. This is so amazing," Gallo said. "We won the whole thing. It's crazy. It's unbelievable."
It really is considering Parsippany Hills (10-12-1) had just one victory in the NJAC-National Division. However, they triumphed in six state tourney games, four by shutout, and denied several big scorers, including Haddonfield's Madison Bee and Mahwah's Sarah Jordan, during their journey.
The defense was in fine form once again, repelling Haddonfield's attack. The key, as always, was playing with passion.
"We have a lot of heart and the greatest work ethic," junior defender Brianna Crowley said. "Maybe we're not the most skilled or technically sound but we want it more."
The night before, many of the Vikings girls soccer players went to West Essex to cheer on the football team which gained a berth in the North Jersey Section 2, Group III title game. Head coach Gia Rosamilia imposed a strict curfew, instructing her players to go directly home and get sufficient rest.
Parsippany Hills athletic director Todd Ricker, however, was "too excited" to close his eyes and got no sleep at all. That didn't prevent him from being on hand for the Vikings' historic triumph.
The Vikings pumped themselves up on the bus bound for Kean by singing. One of the songs was an original, "Caroline," from their banquet.
"Winning today is an amazing feeling," Crowley said. "We made history. We all knew we could do this. We just had to show everyone else."
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