“Why not us?”
Pascack Valley girls soccer head coach Amy Lombardo said this to her team during halftime of their scoreless game against powerhouse Northern Highlands, who took home the Group 3 state title with a 22-1 record just one year prior.
The Indians would go on to defeat Northern Highlands 2-0 in a stunner at home on Thursday night to kick off the 2019 season.
Northern Highlands is one of North Jersey’s most accomplished programs, as it has won eight state championships and eleven Bergen County titles – including four straight. Before Thursday night’s win, Valley had not defeated Highlands since the 2006 Bergen County Tournament, in which the Indians edged out the Highlanders 3-1.
Thursday’s matchup started as a defensive struggle, as neither team was able to gain an edge. However, the Indians were as confident as ever.
“After the first ten minutes, you could tell [the Highlanders] were really starting to get annoyed and we were starting to get in their heads,” said senior Sam Conjour, who was making her first career start at goalie. “You could hear them on the field arguing with each other.”
The first half ended in a scoreless tie, which was already a moral victory for the Indians considering Highlands’ recent dominance. However, their sights were set on greater goals.
“At halftime we were in our huddle and [Lombardo] was so excited,” Conjour said. “She was [saying], ‘Why not us? Why can’t we be the team to upset them?’ I think that really got to us.”
Sophomore Alex Spadafino soon scored the first goal of the game to give Valley a 1-0 lead and a major confidence boost.
“Last year, I really didn’t score that much, and [today’s goal] boosted my self-confidence because now I know I’m capable,” Spadafino said.
Freshman Julia Conjour tacked on an insurance goal to increase the lead to 2-0, a lead that would stay put through the waning moments of the game. Even the Indians were surprised by the final outcome.
“We all went into the game thinking that we were just going to try to slow Highlands down,” Spadafino said. “We never expected to score any goals at all.”
Upsetting the team that finished last season ranked third in the country by MaxPreps brings new confidence and expectations to the Indians, who came into Thursday’s game sporting six new starters.
“[The confidence boost] is really big, actually, I’m kind of scared of how big it is because now we have to live up to our name,” Spadafino said with a laugh.
The Indians will look to build on this momentum Saturday when they host Bergen Tech, whom they defeated 3-2 last season. But before they get back to work, the team is happy to relish its memorable upset win.
“All of us are just over the moon,” Conjour said. “It’s so exciting.”