After blanking visiting Ramapo College 4-0 on Saturday, senior goalkeeper Jessica Clarke set the school record for most all-time shutouts by a goalkeeper with 42. She has 10 this season alone.
Clarke passed Victoria Nusse, who played between the pipes for the Lions from 1998-2001.
“She’s been a consistent, steady performer since she first arrived here, and she’s just continued to get better and be a leader,” head coach Joe Russo said. “The record is well-deserved. She’s been the main constant of the defense, and that’s a direct result of her work ethic.”
Clarke, humbled by the record-breaking event, tried to explain that it was more than just her play in net that led to her claiming the record.
“The record is a tribute to all of the girls who have played and our team dedication to defense,” Clarke said. “I am happy it has occurred but am ready to move forward to complete the regular season. Our team is looking forward to finishing up the NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Conference) and get into the postseason.”
The defense that Clarke is so quick to credit did make things much easier on her against the Roadrunners, keeping the ball in front for much of the game and allowing her to have just one save.
“As always, we’ve been defending better and better as a team,” Russo said. We make a concerted effort to defend, and when that happens, the goalkeeper benefits directly from it. It’s a point of emphasis for us.”
Even more importantly is that with the win, the Lions clinch a first-round bye in the upcoming NJAC Tournament, and with that bye, they will host their first playoff game.
The team is currently second in the NJAC standings, with a 6-2 record in-conference for 18 points. They are 14-2 overall.
“We are happy to have the chance to host the second round of the tournament,” Clarke said. “We would like to play at home for as long as possible.”
The bye is certainly, in part, thanks to the first half offense in the win against the Roadrunners. Just 10:30 into the contest, defender Jillian Casey tapped in her fifth score of the season. The senior connected on the goal on a pass from freshman midfielder Toni DeMaio.
Two more scores were recorded in the first half, as sophomore forward Jaclyn Greco and classmate defender Annie McCarthy each notched a goal to put the Lions up three at the break.
“Our first half was very good,” Russo said. “We created a lot of chances in the first 45 minutes, and we scored good goals. They were all opportunistic goals and they were well-deserved. It helped us settle in and play more of a relaxed type of a game.”
The final score came off the foot of junior midfielder Casey Caruso just under two minutes into the second half, as her eighth goal of the year was on a pass from DeMaio. It was her second assist of the day.
“(Caruso’s) done very well,” Russo said. She’s our most consistent finisher, and it’s hard to find kids like that. She understands and reads game well, and that goal was gift-wrapped from Toni, and she put it in nicely. ”
With the way his team played in this record-breaking contest, Russo believes this momentum can be brought into the final home game and beyond, but he isn’t looking farther than the next game.
“We’re focusing on Wednesday, because the tournament is the most competitive I’ve seen in my 20 years of being here,” Russo said. “We need to take care of business, and we wanted to go in with a few wins in succession to carry on the momentum.”
With another very impressive regular season in the books, the Lions look to take their probable second seed in the NJAC Tournament to bigger and better things.
“Our team’s ultimate goal is to first win the NJAC championship and then move forward into the NCAA tournament,” Clarke said. “Postseason is the most exciting part of the season, and we are all very excited moving forward. We understand that each game is crucial and we cannot look past the next game.”
After having their contest from Oct. 21st canceled due to inclement weather, the College will look to conclude its regular season on a high note at home tonight, as they play host to Rutgers University-Newark at 7:30 p.m.