By Michael Battista
The New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) has been a tight race the past few years, with both Montclair State University and the College making strong plays to become pack leaders. The Lions made strides in securing their lead in their last two conference games, tying Stockton University, 0-0, on Wednesday, Sept. 30 and beating top NJAC team Montclair State, 2-0, on Saturday, Oct. 3.
The NCAA 11th-ranked Lions came into the Stockton matchup 2-0 in conference games, but Stockton’s defense showed exactly why they are unbeaten in these games (0-0-3 record).
The Ospreys’ defense played like hornets during the match up, swarming any Lion that entered their zone, giving the College few actual chances at a goal.
Sophomore midfielder Elizabeth Thoresen says Stockton was determined to keep them out.
“They were hungry for the ball,” she said. “They had four girls on the ball every time and cleared it out quickly.”
The Lions did get chances throughout, but Ospreys goalie Nicole Pallante blocked or saved every ball that came her way, including six in the second half alone.
The game broke into double overtime, and Thoresen had a chance in the closing moments of the match to win it for the team. However, the ball drifted wide left, leaving the game, 0-0.
Thoresen says this just gives her more to practice on.
“I need to focus on crossing in the box, and also finishing from a ball in the air,” she said.
The College now has three ties this season overall, but still remains undefeated in the loss column—and they had one of their biggest challenges to that title on Saturday, Oct. 3, when they traveled up to Montclair, N.J., to face the Red Hawks.
The game was a rematch of last year’s NJAC final, which Montclair won, 3-2, on penalty kicks to secure the NJAC title. A year is a long time, however, and this Lions squad was a different beast entirely.
Sophomore midfielder Jessica Goldman said the team wanted to prove something.
“Obviously Montclair is a huge rival for us,” Goldman said. “We used our losses in the past to motivate us. We didn’t necessarily want revenge, we just wanted to prove how good we can be.”
Just three minutes into the game, junior midfielder Sarah Marion, off an assist from senior midfielder Christina Roach, put one behind the Red Hawk goalie to put the team up, 1-0 early.
Montclair still continued to prove why they are one of the top dogs in the NJAC, playing tight defense and pushing the Lions into their own zone multiple times. The Red Hawks put seven shots on goal against Lions goalie, senior Jessica Weeder, who finished the game to earn her eighth solo shutout of the season.
The College pushed through again during the 16th minute, when Goldman, with an assist from Thoresen, buried a shot in the Red Hawk’s goal.
The second half was scoreless from both teams, with each getting a handful of chances at each other’s goals without being able to finish.
Goldman said the Red Hawks’ push in the second wasn’t any issue.
“They became a bit more offensive, and started to get in our half a little bit more, but I still think our will to win was greater,” she said. “Even when they started to get momentum we worked hard to shut it down quickly and regain our composure.”
The game ended, 2-0, and the Lions secured their place at the top of the NJAC Conference, with a conference record of 3-0-1, and an overall record of 7-0-3. They are still ranked 11th in NSCAA coach rankings, and could gain ground with a few more wins.
Goldman said after nine games, something has finally come together with the squad.
“Throughout this season so far something has seemed a little off, everything hasn’t been fully there,” Goldman said. “In the Montclair game something clicked, and it was great to see the team reach another level. We know now how great we can play, and we won’t settle for anything less.”
The team now looks ahead toward their next game at home, on Tuesday, Oct. 6 against Virginia Wesleyan College at 4 p.m.