Lions defense baffles opponents for sixth straight shutout

Jessica Clarke prepares to deflect the ball away from the net. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Jessica Clarke prepares to deflect the ball away from the net. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

Since losing its first and only game of the season to Rowan University just seven games ago, the No. 18-ranked Lions have not only gone undefeated — the defense has not allowed a single goal.

“We’ve been playing very well with creating chances on offense and becoming solidified on defense,” head coach Joe Russo said.

The College recorded its sixth shutout victory in as many games by edging New Jersey Athletic Conference rival Richard Stockton College 1-0 last Wednesday.

The story of the game was goalkeeper Jessica Clarke. The senior had three saves on the day to tally her ninth shutout of the season and the 41st of her career. This ties her with Victoria Nusse for most in the program’s history. Nusse set the mark back in 2001.

“I feel so honored to have achieved this,” Clarke said. “The record is definitely a tribute to all of the girls who have played defense during my four year here. It would not be possible without them.”

Both teams exuded a very stingy defensive game plan on the field, with very few scoring chances allowed for either team.

“It’s our overall commitment as a team defensively,” Russo said. “We’ve been buying into defending as a group, and it’s been working effectively. We’ve been very, very good at defending.”

“Our defense has taken that loss in stride,” Clarke added. “We have learned from it and made sure to build since.”

The Lions’ lone goal came from freshman midfielder Toni DeMaio, who hit a one-timer at the left side of the box on a beautifully-placed pass from sophomore defender Nikki Migliori. The goal, which was scored on a restart at 21:48, was DeMaio’s second on the season, and the assist was Migliori’s seventh.

“Toni’s just getting back from an ankle sprain, so she’s just getting her feet wet again,” Russo said. “It’s her second game winner for the year. She’s been playing very well since coming back.”

Sophomore defender Annie McCarthy. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)
Sophomore defender Annie McCarthy. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

The goals were more plentiful for the Lions in a matchup against Eagles of the University of Mary Washington, as the home team downed their opponent 5-0 on Oct. 11.

The scoring happened early and often. Junior midfielder Casey Caruso scored on a pass from Migliori via a direct kick to put the Lions up one just 1:38 into the match.

Fellow junior Briann McDonough joined her classmate, tallying her first goal of the contest to put the hosts up 2-0 midway through the initial half. She then netted yet another on a nice assist from Caruso to increase the College lead to three.

“She’s been outstanding right from the get-go (of the season),” Russo said. She’s a remarkable athlete, and a good leader on and off the field. She’s a real pleasure to coach.”

Two more goals were tallied in the second half courtesty of sophomore defender Brittany McGinley and freshman forward Allyson Anderson, respectively, to ice the game at the final score of 5-0. McGinley’s goal was the first of the season for her, while Anderson tallied her fourth on the campaign.

“Overall, it was a great team effort,” Russo said.

The win kept the Lions undefeated at home, but they have been just as dominating on the road. Their most recent contest away from home was a convincing 4-0 win over the Ducks of Stevens Institute of Technology on Oct. 7.

The Lions completely controlled this game from start to finish, as they forced the Ducks to play back on defense for the majority of the game.

The scoreboard was lit up twice by freshman forward Katie Landrigan, who came off the bench to provide the spark for the Lions offense. Landrigan got into the game at the 26-minute mark and scored less than three minutes later. The goals were her third and fourth on the season.

“It’s a good freshmen class, and they’ve contributed since they’ve been here,” Russo said. “We have high expectations. They’re getting better as a group every day.”

The two remaining scores were off the feet of seniors Jillian Casey and Kristina Shemming in the second half of play. Casey notched her fourth on the year on a header from Migliori’s corner kick. Midfielder Shemming got her first of the season after recovering a loose ball in the box which she rocketed into the net.

Overall, the Lions outshot the Ducks 30-3.

With that dominating performance, the Lions now stand at 13-1 overall, including a 5-1 record in the NJAC.

Their attempt at a seventh win in a row in their match at William Paterson University was washed out on Saturday due to rain. It is scheduled for makeup Tuesday at 3:30 pm.

“We’re just concerned with the next game,” Russo said. “We don’t look ahead, and we have to take care of business and control how well we are going to compete in the next game.”

The College’s next contest is on the road today in a 4 p.m. match against Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.