By Michael Battista
This late in the season, every game, especially New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games, make a huge difference. Over the College’s fall break, the College’s women’s soccer team continued to prove why they are top team in the NJAC and ranked No. 9 in the nation with four straight wins, three coming against fellow NJAC teams.
The only non-NJAC game came against Virginia Wesleyan College on Tuesday, Oct. 6 at home, and the Lions put on a display beating the Marlins, 5-0.
The overall team effort on both offense and defense was in sync for most of the 90-minute game and sophomore midfielder Jessica Goldman, who scored in the second half, thinks the team is finally clicking together.
“It feels good, something’s clicking,” Goldman said. “We’re finally getting good chemistry with one another. As long as we keep working like this to keep our top spot in the NJAC, we’ll be set.”
The team did just what Goldman said they should and shut out their next two games against NJAC opponents, first on Saturday, Oct. 10, when they handily beat New Jersey City University, 9-0, at home and then took care of Rutgers-Camden on Wednesday, Oct. 14, with a 5-0 win on the road.
In the last home game of the regular season on Saturday, Oct. 17, the Lions faced off against another NJAC rival, Ramapo College.
Before the first whistle, the team honored their senior players in a pregame ceremony. Forward Justine Larocca, midfielders Christina Roach and Taylor Lusardi, defender Brianna Cummings and goalkeeper Jessica Weeder were all honored for their dedication to the team and were wished good luck in the future.
Cummings thought the feeling was bittersweet.
“It’s a bitter feeling knowing this is my last home game (if the Lions fall out of the top seed),” she said. “The ceremony made me feel proud to play with the girls I started it with.”
After the touching display, the team got set for the matchup against the Roadrunners.
After an even start by both teams, with strong offensive plays mixed with defensive lines that kept the shot count low early on, Ramapo got a chance and capitalized, scoring nearly 12 minutes into the game, putting the Lions down, 0-1. This was the first time all season the College had trailed at any point.
The Lions didn’t take this sitting down however, when junior defender Marisa Scognamiglio came back and scored less than 20 seconds later thanks to an assist from Goldman to tie the game, 1-1.
After that, the team began to take over on offense, outshooting the Roadrunners six to one in the first half.
Throughout the 90 minutes, Ramapo’s defense exposed the overzealousness of the Lions’ attacking offense and the Lions were penalized 15 times in total for offsides calls. This type of play stopped a lot of breakaways, and kept the Roadrunners in the game longer.
Sophomore defender Abigail Emmert said the key is to keep up with teams like this.
“It’s important not to give into team’s playing like this,” she said. “You need to keep up with them and not give them chances.”
The second half continued with the Lions gaining the upper hand of offense, but the players in the Ramapo zone kept them back long enough and blocked enough shots to push the game into double overtime.
It looked as though the game would end in a tie, but just under five minutes into the second overtime, the College broke through. After a corner kick from Goldman, the ball moved back and forth in the Roadrunners zone. Lusardi headed the ball against the crossbar, but Emmert was able to kick in the rebound to give the Lions the 2-1 win.
Emmert said these games are the most important, no matter how you win.
“Going into the postseason, it’s important we get those points (both in the NJAC and NCAA) and important we get those wins,” Emmert said.
With 19 points in the NJAC, five points above Montclair State University and Rowan University, the Lions need to keep playing the same way they have since two of their last three games are against NJAC opponents on the road.
The final non-NJAC game is their next one against Stevens Institute of Technology on Wednesday, Oct. 21 in Hoboken, N.J.