PEQUANNOCK TWP. _ There was no specific reason for Brynn Kelly's promotion to Pequannock's starting lineup.
The decision was made on Oct. 24, the day the Golden Panthers opened play in the state tournament. Since then, Kelly, a junior forward, has had a major impact on the attack, scoring a goal in each of Pequannock's postseason games.
On Friday, Nov. 1, nine days after earning her spot among the top 11, Kelly struck first, converting off a corner with 5:42 remaining in the opening half to help the Golden Panthers to a 3-0 victory over Boonton in the North Jersey Section 1, Group I final.
"This is so unreal," said Kelly of the sectional title, Pequannock's first since 2003. "We worked long and hard for it and we finally did it. This is amazing."
The Golden Panthers, slated to meet Shore Regional in a Group I semifinal on Tuesday, put in all three of their goals off corners. Charlotte Hardie scored the other goal in the first half, converting 1:09 before the break. Victoria Chavez made it 3-0 in the second half by sending the ball across the goal line with only 2:37 elapsed.
Pequannock coach Diane Bolchune was elated by the win because of the 16-year stretch without a sectional championship. She was happy as well for Kelly, previously one of the first players off the bench.
"It's awesome. Unbelievable," Bolchune said. "The girls earned it. They deserve it. All we had to do was keep our composure and play the way we know how to play. If we get things in our heads, it shuts us down. It psyches us out. Brynn has been doing so well. She started clicking recently and is doing what we needed her to do. She's always in the right spot at the right time."
Kelly's goal came off an assist by Hardie. Kelly ran into the circle from the right side and went to the right post. Hardie sent the ball in and Kelly, also a member of the swimming and lacrosse teams, deflected it into the left side of the goalcage.
"It's been really exciting to start," Kelly said. "Right before our first state game, our coach told me I'd be starting. I was like 'OK. I've got to do this.'"
Junior center back Emily Deitch stood out on defense along with Alex Charenson and Molly Dolan. Deitch was intent on being part of a sectional title squad after hearing her batting coach, Emily Ringen, talk about the 2003 title run. Ringen, now the dean of students and head softball coach at Lyndhurst, was a freshman in high school when the Golden Panthers claimed their eighth sectional crown under legendary coach Carole Schoen.
"(Ringen) showed me some photos of her playing," Deitch said. "She told me it was great. We've lost to Boonton a lot over the last three years and, today, we didn't know what to expect. We just had to play our best and to put everything out there."
To get fired up for the game, each Pequannock player chose a quote that would be read during warmups. Deitch picked "Talent wins games but teamwork and inspiration win championships." They also wrote PEQ on the inside of their wrists.
"Each time we looked at the letters, we were reminded that we were playing for each other," Deitch said.
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