Sophomore defender Victoria Martin reared back and fired a pass into the middle of the field and then watched as senior forward Jillian Nealon banged in the College’s only goal in a 1-0 victory over FDU-Florham on Saturday, Sept. 8.
After bringing the ball down into the offensive end, Martin knocked the ball through the Devils’ defense and found Nealon, who tallied her fifth goal of the season.
“It was a beautiful pass and it was a beautiful goal,” head coach Sharon Pfluger said. “Everybody worked hard for it, but it was a nice finish to the whole play.”
After that score, the Lions (2-0) relied on defense as their offense fell into a lull.
“I think there were opportunities where we could have created more and we were kind of just watching the shot and then letting them clear it out,” Pfluger said.
While the Lions’ offense struggled, their defense stepped up, stopping the Devils’ offense in its tracks. The Lions put a halt to eight penalty corners with the help of senior Meredith Jeffries, who met the ball at the top of the shooting circle on several occasions.
“When we go into the corner, all we say is ‘we have to get the ball out,’” Jeffries said. “So, we just gave everything we could and got it out and I think that was a big part of our transition up field again.”
The Lions’ defense, which is full of veterans, relied heavily on two freshmen against the Devils with goalkeeper Roisin Dougherty and defender Mikayla Cimilluca serving as the last lines of defense at several points in the contest.
Dougherty was strong in the cage in her first start for the Lions — who were without sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Krause — making three saves and combing with the defense in front of her to record the shutout.
“I thought she had a good game,” Jeffries said. “She really stepped up and she didn’t play scared at all.”
Cimilluca had a steady stick throughout the game and made her biggest play of the day with 14:46 left in the first half. With the Devils receiving a penalty corner opportunity, FDU midfielder Kelsey Kistle ripped a shot toward the cage and to the side of Dougherty. But the shot was quickly deflected away by Cimilluca, who recorded the Lions only defensive save of the game.
Pfluger said it was good to see the pair of freshmen pick up some experience and perform well. She also believes that games like these prove that the younger girls can be counted on.
“(Their performance) speaks volumes,” Pfluger said. “I think it’s good for the older girls to see that, to see that (Roisin and Mikayla) are absolutely capable of playing with the most experienced kids that we have. It’s nice to see, it’s a good feeling.”
Overall, Pfluger was happy with the play she got from her defense. Most importantly was the way they performed when senior midfielder Camille Passucci was forced to sit out for two minutes after receiving a green card for what Pfluger says was a called push.
“I think they all held strong under the pressure,” Pfluger said. “We are going to have to play defense, in every game you have to play some defense, so after dealing with that (offensive) pressure, I was happy with how we played.”
Pfluger is still fooling around with her lineup, bringing in four substitutes throughout the game, but she said that the team is “getting used to each other and learning a lot.”
The Lions will be back in action on Thursday, Sept. 13, when they travel to Gwynedd Valley, Pa. to take on Gwynedd-Mercy College at 7p.m.