Sterling's dreams of a state softball championship ended with a disappointing 2-1 loss to Robbinsville on Tuesday in the NJSIAA Group 2 semifinals at Wall Township.
The South Jersey-champion Silver Knights (22-4) scored in the first inning when Kylie McGoldrick and Sarah Almasy doubled, and McGoldrick scored on Kylie O'Donnell's single.
Sterling managed just three hits the rest of the way against Lauren Fischer, who struck out seven for Robbinsville (24-0).
Nicole Piet's third-inning home run off Almasy (15-5) proved to be the winning run, putting the Ravens in the state finals against Pequannock.
"We lost five seniors from last year's team," Sterling coach Kelly Tallant said, "and had a lot of girls in new positions. It's a disappointing loss, but for us to get this far is great. I couldn't have asked the girls to do more."
Group 3. Jackie Bates slugged a pair of home runs and guided Middletown South (24-6) to an 11-1 win over Kingsway (23-5) in the state semifinals at Lenape.
Dragons outfielder Tori Danner, a freshman who drove in her team's only run with a bases-loaded single in the fourth inning, crashed through the outfield fence trying to catch one of the home runs by Bates, who had three RBIs.
In the fourth, Allie Bradian singled, Kelsey Dominick walked, and Katie Dixon was hit by a pitch before Danner's base hit.
Middletown South needs a win against Sparta in the state final to claim its third straight state championship.
Group 4. Howell's Carsin Conner outdueled Washington Township's Alissa Schoelkopf as the Central Jersey champs prevailed, 1-0, in the semifinal at Neptune.
Howell (16-8), a Cinderella team that was seeded 12th in the Central Jersey tournament, scored the run in the third inning when Stephanie Grainger singled for one of two hits allowed by Schoelkopf and advanced all the way around on three wild pitches.