Every beginning has an end, but the women’s soccer team could have picked a better time for their 38-game New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) unbeaten streak to stall. After coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against the No. 23 Rowan University Profs at Lions’ Stadium Wednesday, the No. 13 Lions dropped their first conference match in almost five years, falling 1-0 to the Montclair State University (MSU) Red Hawks.
Although they started the season 5-1, the Lions have gone 1-2-1 over a four-game home stand stretching back to Sept. 20.
Red Hawk freshman midfielder Rachel Senyszyn was the difference-maker, scoring the only goal of the defensive struggle 12 minutes into the first half. MSU senior defenseman Angela Martone found a streaking Senyszyn cutting a path towards the Lions’ net.
Senyszyn, who has turned heads by netting six goals in the first nine games of her rookie season, fired a shot past Lions junior goalkeeper Jessica Clarke to put the Red Hawks up 1-0.
Despite an evenly matched first half, the Lions took over the pace of the game in the second half, pressuring the Red Hawks by keeping the ball on their side of the field.
But the Lions could not convert any of their 12 second-half shots-on-goal. Senior forward Jamie Kunkel, one of the team’s usual catalysts, watched a shot from inside the box cruise over the crossbar and out of play. The Red Hawks’ junior goalkeeper Leah Tepperman made one of her five saves moments later, when she brought down a direct kick from Lions’ senior defenseman Laura Delaney.
While Delaney couldn’t tie up the Red Hawks match, she was named NJAC defensive player of the week.
The Lions’ 38-game win streak was actually sandwiched between two losses to MSU. The Red Hawks were the last team to beat the College when the Lions fell on the road, 2-1 on Oct. 25, 2003.
“We don’t usually lose so it hurts a little bit more. But we’re not worried,” Kunkel said. “In my opinion, we could have won that game.”
Wednesay’s match proved troublesome for the Lions as well, as they had to use a second-half surge to tie the Profs at 1. Rowan jumped out to a 1-0 lead with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Sophomore forward Jess Babice raced up the sidelines and into the Lions’ penalty box before she whipped a pass to junior forward Mandy Silvesti, who found the net to give the Profs the lead.
Things looked bleak with less than 20 minutes to go as the Profs, who had not allowed a goal all year, were limiting the Lions’ normally potent offense. But when junior forward Kristina Shemming found Kunkel, she snuck the ball past junior goalkeeper Sarah Volkomer to tie things up at 1.
“I never thought we were out of it,” Kunkel said. “It’s always hard getting that first score. A tie is better than a loss in anyone’s book.”
Both teams went on the defensive in the overtime periods, with the Profs managing only one shot-on-goal in the two extra sessions. The Lions had four shots-on-goal in OT, one of which almost sealed the victory.
Sophomore forward Julianne DeLorenzo escaped the Profs’ tight defense and fired a shot from close range, but Volkomer laid out for the save, diving to deflect the potential game-winner out of play.
The contest was highlighted by the battle between Volkomer and Clarke, two of the NJAC’s toughest keepers. The junior goalkeepers both had six saves in 110 minutes of work. Clarke also had two saves in Saturday’s match-up with MSU, allowing one goal in 45 minutes. Sophomore keeper Katie Piotrowski worked the second half, stopping three shots in 45 minutes.
The Lions are scheduled to face the Rutgers Univesity-Camden Scarlet Raptors, another NJAC opponent, today at 7:30 p.m. in Lions’ Stadium.
James Queally can be reached at email@example.com