WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. - The Haddonfield girls' soccer team might want to have Paige Restaino checked out for an excessively hard head.
Any other explanation almost defies logic.
Off a corner kick, the Parisppany Hills defender charged the middle of the field like a bull and used the top of her skull to rifle a frozen rope past the Haddonfield keeper.
The improbable angle, improbably strong hit, and unlikely goal with nine minutes left was the only score in the Group 2 girls' soccer state championship game as the Bulldawgs fell, 1-0, to Parsippany Hills on Saturday morning at Kean University, ending Haddonfield's quest for the program's fifth girls' soccer state championship.
"Our girls were ready, we just couldn't find the net. We fought extremely hard," Haddonfield coach Lori Quintavalle said.
The game ended a historic run for Haddonfield in which the team finished with a 25-2 record, allowing just 19 goals along the way.
"I think we all just clicked this year," said junior defender Annie Stanton. "It stinks to end the year at 25-2, but we'll come back next year and finish business."
The Bulldawgs defense continued to shine through most of the game's 80 minutes.
Haddonfield even controlled the run of play through most of the game. Among numerous close calls, there was Wayden Ay's breakaway with 13 minutes left and Rachel Bonnett's one-on-one look with the keeper earlier in the second half - both barely missed.
The Bulldawgs held a 7-5 advantage in corner kicks, but couldn't convert against an opponent hungry to complete an eye-popping Cinderella run.
Parsippany Hills started this season 0-8-1 before doing a complete 180$ turn.
The Vikings entered the postseason as the 13th seed and finished as a state champion with a losing record of 10-12-1.
"When our regular season was over we decided that we were going to pretend like that never happened," coach Gia Rosamilia said. "We went into states with a completely clean slate. And we gained confidence with every win."
An element of persistence defined the Vikings, and it was on display Saturday.
Haddonfield had the Vikings on their heels through much of the second half. But the Vikings kept pushing.
Four minutes before her goal, Restaino barley missed off a similar play - she headed the ball just over the crossbar off a corner kick.
"And she was just determined not to let that happen again," Rosamilia said.
Despite the loss, Haddonfield has plenty to look forward to. The team will return one of the best defenses in South Jersey next season, as well as leading goal scorer Madison Bee, who finished this season with 31 goals and seven assists.
"There's always next year," Stanton said. "And I believe we can make it. It was really exciting playing in a state championship. But it's really nice to know that we can come back next year just as strong."
Parsippany Hills 0 1 - 1
Haddonfield 0 0 - 0
Goal: Paige Restaino.
Saves: PH-Aytana Muschajew 3; H-Maya Olimpio 4.