A penalty kick hit the back of the net with 19 minutes left, and it told you all you needed to know about the Washington Township girls' soccer team.
The team just doesn't go away.
The Minutemaids' season was defined by the odds growing higher and the team growing stronger.
In Tuesday night's Group 4 state semifinals at Rowan University, a trio of unanswered goals put Washington Township down by three in the second half. But the young, hungry and exceptionally talented team didn't shy away from the deficit. The team looked stronger, scoring two unanswered goals, including a PK by Breana Winder to bring her team to within one, pushing a more experienced Freehold Township to its limit in what ended up a 5-3 loss for the Minutemaids.
Giving up "wouldn't be the character of this team," said coach Bill Alvaro. "We've come through so many obstacles this year. There was no way this team was ever going to lay down and quit."
The season was one of the more memorable in the history of Washington Township girls' soccer. And it's hardly because of wins and losses — even as the team finished 18-4-3 and captured its first South Jersey Group 4 title last week in a win over Toms River North.
The team will be remembered most for its resilience, for having to move on from the unexpected loss of two of its top players.
Before the season, Emily Gray opted to forgo her senior season with the Minutemaids to play with the U-19 national team. Another leader, Natasha Munro, suffered a season-ending injury in the team's second game.
"This team was amazing to be a part of," Winder said. "The energy and the way we lifted each other up was amazing to be a part of. …
"We knew we lost great players who could have been great assets. But we knew we had so much talent. We weren't just a few star players. We were a whole team."
A big reason for the team's resilience this season was the rise of Amanda Attanasi. The freshman scored two goals, and was fouled on the play that resulted in Winder's penalty kick on Tuesday, dazzling throughout the game and putting a stamp on a freshman season in which she finished with 29 goals and established herself as one of the state's most talented offensive players.
Tuesday night, only Freehold's dynamic duo of twins Jasmine and Jada Colbert could match the athleticism of Attanasi. The two combined for three of the team's five goals to improve their team's record to 23-1.
Jada scored her second goal of the game on a sequence that looked unstoppable — she juked a couple defenders and sent a perfect bending shot into the right upper 90, making the score 2-1 with 26:30 left. That was the start of a three-goal flurry that only fired Washington Township up more. Attanasi answered with score with 21 minutes left to make the score 4-2. Winder's goal brought the score to 4-3 before Jasmine Colbert's goal with 13:10 left put the game our of reach of Washington Township.
Most of the oohs and ahhs early on were directed at Attanasi. The freshman flashed speed and and technical skill on the ball that appeared to catch the Freehold defense off guard at first.
Jada sneaked in a goal, assisted Jasmine, just five minutes into the game for Freehold. But it was against the run of play, and Washington Township recovered quickly and went right back to controlling the tempo.
Ten minutes after Freehold's goal, Attanasi broke free and buried a line drive from just inside the 18-yard box off a feed from Giovanna Castorino.
Play was even for the rest of the first half, setting the stage for the theatrics that followed.
Freehold Township 1 4 — 5
Washington Township 1 2 — 3
Goals: FT- Jada Colbert 2, Jasmine Colbert, Paige Farrell, Laura Noseworthy; WT- Amanda Attanasi 2, Breana Winder.
Saves: FT- Alessia LaRosa 6; WT- Jordyn Stallard 7.