Hillsborough holds off Livingston to reach sectional quarterfinal

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Hillsborough High School attacker Gabriella Roosa takes a shot on net during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Hillsborough defeated Livingston 6-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group IV Tournament.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School senior forward Grace Venis rolls around the net and scores a goal during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Venis scored two goals in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School defender Katie Marshall advances the ball up the field during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Hillsborough won 6-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group IV Tournament. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School senior midfielder Mia Boccippio races up the field with the ball during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Boccippio scored her team-high 34th goal of the season during the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School attacker Gabriella Roosa takes a shot on net during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Hillsborough defeated Livingston 6-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group IV Tournament.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School senior forward Grace Venis rolls around the net and scores a goal during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Venis scored two goals in the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School defender Katie Marshall advances the ball up the field during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Hillsborough won 6-5 to advance to the quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group IV Tournament. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Hillsborough High School senior midfielder Mia Boccippio races up the field with the ball during a game against Livingston on June 1 in Hillsborough. Boccippio scored her team-high 34th goal of the season during the contest. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Tensions were high for the Hillsborough High School girls lacrosse team during its first-round matchup against Livingston High School in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey, Group IV Tournament.

Leading 6-5 with 8:49 left to play on June 1, the Raiders were handed a tough blow with Mia Boccippio recording the team’s fourth yellow card of the game, resulting in Hillsborough having to play a man down the rest of the contest during their home game at Dan A. Noonan Field.

Coach Kristina Dunphey told her Hillsborough squad in the huddle during a timeout after the penalty that despite being down a player, they should fight together to the very end.

That’s exactly what the Raiders did, playing lockdown defense on Livingston to hold on for a 6-5 victory to advance to the quarterfinals of the sectional tournament and improve to 10-7 on the season.

“Our strength has been our defense all year,”  Dunphey said after the game. “They played together and played selflessly. They knew they needed to play hard to get that ball on attack and that’s what they did.”

Hillsborough was able to bounce back from a one-goal deficit in the final six minutes of the first half to take a 3-2 lead at halftime.

Katie Sanfillippo tied the game at 2-2 for Hillsborough with 5:21 to play in the half, picking up her own loose ball and then knocking home her first score of the day.

Senior Grace Venis put Hillsborough back into the driver’s seat with 2:50 to go in the first half.

Tallying her 30th goal of the season with the game’s first score, Venis added goal No. 31 to her ledger by smacking home her second goal of the half off a pass from teammate Alexa Ciccarelli.

Venis has scored two or more goals in each of the last three games for the Raiders.

“I was on the crease ready for the pass and knew we had to keep putting them in to have a chance to win,” Venis said about her goal before the half. “I’m excited to move on with my seniors. This was an important game to us being our last home game of the season. We’re all really excited to keep going and keep the season going.”

The two-goal surge by Hillsborough overlapped into the second half as Sanfillippo led the Raiders to a 5-2 lead.

The sophomore banged home her second goal of the contest to begin the second half and then helped dish out Hillsborough’s second goal, finding a wide-open Olivia Halverson in front of the net to slash in a score to give the Raiders a three-goal lead.

Livingston answered with back-to-back scores to make it a one-goal game again, but Hillsborough responded on the stick of Boccippio with 13:52 left to play.

Off the free possession, Boccippio charged the net and fired in her team-high 34th goal of the season to give Hillsborough some breathing room at 6-4.

“Mia is just one of those girls that loves lacrosse,” Dunphey said. “She’s very coachable. She had to play her game today. She’s had a great senior year.”

Livingston cut it back to a one-score game a minute later, setting up a hard-fought last 10 minutes of action for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Hillsborough’s defense was up to the challenge of protecting a one-goal lead.

Even down a player for almost all of the final 10 minutes of the contest, the Raiders were solid on defense and kept Livingston from getting any decent looks at the net.

“We have great communication and work really well together,” said Hillsborough defender Jenn Koval. “After any goal, we come together and figure out ways to try and fix it.”

Livingston had one last chance to force overtime with 17 seconds left.

The Lancers raced up the field to get one last heave from the 20-yard line, but Hillsborough’s Meg Wilke was in front of the net and knocked the ball away to seal a trip to the quarterfinals for her squad.

Hillsborough goalkeeper Ryle Masi racked up 10 saves in the net for the Raiders.

Always telling her players to have fun when they hit the field during a game or practice, Dunphey said she enjoyed watching her Hillsborough squad celebrate its trip to the quarterfinals after the game.

Dunphey knows her team plays its best when they’re “having fun” and she can’t wait for her squad to take on top-seeded Ridgewood High School in the quarterfinals on June 5.

“I always tell them to play hard and have fun,” Dunphey said. “They have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’re excited to play them.”