By Michael Battista
The women’s soccer team returned to the College for their first home games of the year last week. They were able to dominate both in and out of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and came out on top against Ursinus College, 3-1, on Wednesday, Sept. 14, and William Patterson University, 7-0, on Saturday, Sept. 17.
Junior midfielder Elizabeth Thoreson said she loves playing at home.
“It’s good to be back, I miss it.” Thoreson said. “We had a full year to be back here, and now that I’m a junior, I have two more chances left. So it’s good to start out first home game with a win.”
During the first half of the game, the Lions weren’t playing as dominantly as in previous games.
The team’s playing seemed off, despite clinching an early lead thanks to senior midfielder Marissa Scagnamiglio’s goal from off an impressive cross through traffic from senior forward Christine Levering.
Through the heavy rain, the Lions missed many opportunities to expand their lead during the first 45 minutes, and the steady Bears defense allowed them to counter attack and tie the game up at 1 in the 43rd minute.
“Just being out in the first half, there was no fire,” Thoreson said. “And when you don’t have a fire, there’s nothing that’s gonna happen. So, we came together (during the half)… pulled ourselves together, came back out and said, ‘We have to fight for the game.’”
If the team wanted fire, they got it, as they pushed even harder against Ursinus. In total, the Lions outshot the Bears 33 — with 18 on goal — to 3, with 1 on goal. A majority of those shots came out in the second half.
Levering was able to sink a shot from 30 yards out early in the 50th minute to put the Lions up, 2-1. The Bears goalie nearly made an impressive save, but the ball bounced off her fingertips into the net behind her.
The Lions continued to attack by employing more passing play to try to get behind the Bears and get more shots against their goalie.
“We now play 4-5-2. The purpose of that is that there are triangles all over the field,” Thoreson said. “And we play short ball… the formation is meant to pass around other teams.”
While pass play is important to the team, Thoreson was able to take matters into her own hands late in the game. Dribbling into the box unassisted and blasting a shot off her cleats in the 79th minute, she put the team up 3-1. The score stayed the same and the Lions came away as the winners.
After that, the team began to focus on its first NJAC game of the season against William Paterson. Last season, when the two teams last met, neither was able to score. This, among other late season ties and loses, lost them home field in the NJAC playoffs and the top spot in the conference late in the season.
Head coach Joe Russo said this wasn’t about bitter feelings lingering over last year, but that his team has just been trying to get better.
“It’s not a revenge game or anything like that,” Russo said. “(The team) has been working extremely hard to get better. We’ve made improvements and strides since Wednesday into today and hopefully we can keep moving. The game was similar last year, but we just didn’t finish… and tonight we finished.”
The women’s improvements were put on full display, as they outshot the Pioneers 27, with 17 on goal, to 1 shot on goal, which came early in the second half.
The Lions defense kept the Pioneers out of their zone for most of the game, with the team’s offense putting pressure on William Paterson the entire day.
“I thought it was a total team effort for 90 minutes, whereas the other night I thought we only played 45 minutes,” Russo said. “So I thought it was a collective effort on both ends of it.”
After nine shots by the team, Thoreson was able to break past the defense and beat the Pioneer goalkeeper with a high shot to net a goal and put the team up, 1-0, in the 31st minute.
From there, the team didn’t look back, as junior forward Hannah Richman scored two goals during the game (36th and 74th minutes) and junior defenseman Abigail Emmert scored off a penalty kick in the 65th minute.
Three freshmen also made an impact — midfielders Alexa Pestritto (40th minute), Haley Bodden (69th minute) and Alexa Beatty all scored their first goals as Lions.
Pestritto, who scored off her own corner kick, said she wasn’t really expecting it.
“I was really surprised at first,” Pestritto said. “I don’t score that much, so when I did I was extremely excited. I got really amped up.”
The Lions also had a chance to give freshman goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale her first taste of college play. She subbed in for senior goalkeeper Jessica Weeder late in the game. Weeder said DiPasquale is someone to look out for.
“Nicole… is very athletic and she picks up on new techniques (and) incorporates constructive criticism very quickly,” Weeder said. “Both traits that I think will help her bring her game to the next level.”
With the 7-0 win over William Paterson behind them, the Lions prepare to take on Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham (FDU) on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at home. Coach Russo said the team is going to use every day to prepare for that.
“Our motto is ‘We just try to get better everyday,’” Russo said. “We’re going to try to continue to improve. There’s a ton of things we’re going to work on. It’s so early in the year, that we’re just preparing to play FDU-Florham and see if we can get another good result.”