Holy cross

Holy Cross Prep women’s football brings ‘generational talent’ to regional title game

As the ball flew through the air, a defender yelled at the keeper to let him go.

From a distance, almost on the sidelines and 30 yards away, it was easy to see why she would assume the shot hadn’t had a chance to land. But as the ball got closer to the net it became clear what was going to happen for Holy Cross’ Ashley baran, whose perfectly successful shot landed in the nets.

It was a stunt that only a handful of state girls can pull off.

For Baran, that’s just another example of why she belongs in the conversation with New Jersey’s elite forwards. The sophomore scored again on Friday, scoring three times to lead seeded Holy Cross to a 3-0 victory over fifth-seeded Paul VI in the Southwest E semi-final (no public).

Baran now has 19 goals this fall and 48 overall in his career.

“Every time you talk to the coaches one of the things they say is ‘Dude, if only I had a goalscorer, or a girl who can really put the ball in the net,’” said Sergio Torres, trainer for the preparation of the Holy Cross. “If (Ashley) plays like you know she can, she has the opportunity to score at least once, and in the playoffs that’s what we need. Add to that a solid defense that has been outstanding all year and as a coach it keeps me breathing a bit.

“It’s great to be able to have such a special player. He’s a generational talent.

Baran’s mix of speed and power makes her hard to stop.

And this year, no one has really figured out how to slow it down except Cinnaminson, who played a scoreless tie with Holy Cross. Other than that, Baran has scored at least once in all other games. His biggest game came on Monday, scoring two goals in a 2-2 draw with Shawnee.

Holy Cross is more than a one-star show, however, and Baran will be the first to tell you that. The Lancers also feature Florida Atlantic’s engagement Kaylin johnston, arrived last year from Shawnee, and Lafayette commit Michaela salvati, which was transferred this year from Bishop Eustace. Having that line makes it difficult for other teams to play on one player.

“We are like family and we work very well together,” said Baran. “Obviously, I’m not doing the job. I have to thank my team for these goals because they are the ones who bring the ball back onto the pitch. I just do my job and try to finish and score. We work hard for each other.

Salvati preached on the culture established by Holy Cross Prep.

This is a big reason why she decided to come to Delran School after leaving Bishop Eustace. Holy Cross Prep is championship material and that’s because they have a strong team full of playmakers.

Defense matches the intensity of the attack with a back line that features seniors Zahnya Ellis and Anna torres with second year students Olivia kueny and Samatha ferguson. second year keeper Nathalie Schultz is young, but plays coolly in the net.

Holy Cross finished 10-8 a year ago and lost in the section quarterfinals.

This year the Lancers are 5-1-2 and that’s only because they missed two weeks of action when school sports were closed. Baran confidently said after Paul VI’s semi-final victory that Holy Cross would have a much better record if he got the chance to play more.

On Sunday, Holy Cross will have one last chance to step onto the pitch at home and prove it.

It won’t be a traditional section final, but Holy Cross fully views Sunday’s action as a championship game. The Lancers are ready to finish the job and win it all. The only thing standing in the way, with a title on the line, is third-seeded Camden Catholic.

“We play with confidence together, we work together and we all know, at least for the seniors, that this is our last game,” said Johnson. “We haven’t had such a good (season) so we want to work hard so we can have it. I think it’s going to be tough, but I think we definitely have a chance. Especially after the victories we have achieved and what we have already done. They sure won’t see us coming.

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Brandon Gould can be reached at bgould@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BrandonGouldHS.