By Michael Battista
The Lions continued their undefeated season last week by scoring 15 unanswered goals in three combined games. The three clean sheets came against Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham, 3-0, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, then New Jersey City University (NJCU), 9-0, on Friday, Sept. 23, and Widener University, 3-0, on Sunday, Sept. 25.
The College went into its game against NJCU Gothic Knights with the news that the NCAA Coaches’ Poll ranked the team 19th in the nation in Division III. However, senior midfielder Marissa Scognamiglio does not think the high ranking will get to players’ heads.
“I think that we try not to look at the rankings too seriously,” Scognamiglio said. “Only because we don’t want it to dictate how we play… we try to brush it under the rug.”
However, she did say that later on in the season, teams will start to care more about the national rankings since they determine who has home field advantage during the NCAA tournament.
The team’s week of games started at the College against FDU-Florham, where the Lions were able to get off to a quick start. Just over two minutes into the game, senior forward Christine Levering was able to blast in a goal off a cross from junior midfielder Jessica Goldman. Only six minutes later, Levering was able to sneak another ball past the Devils goalkeeper to put the team up, 2-0.
The Lions outshot the Devils 14 to 1 in each half of the game, but the score remained the same after 45 minutes. The College had no issue getting in place for shots, but wasn’t able to finish on some inviting chances. Levering thinks the team could have done more, but gave the Devils credit for adapting as the game progressed.
“I think we needed to stay more composed in the box throughout the game, but I also think they started sitting back and reading how we were playing,” Levering said. “They did better throughout the rest of the game.”
The Devils defense picked up after those two goals and managed to stop attacks early from the Lions.
The second half looked as if it would end the same way as the first, with multiple shots that ultimately failed to be converted, until junior midfielder Kayla Bertolino capitalized on a loose ball in front of the net in the 76th minute and scored.
After the win, Levering looked toward the team’s next game against NJCU with a similar game plan.
“Come out strong again,” Levering said. “Get quick goals and shut the team down in the beginning. Then I think we’ll be good to go.”
The Lions came into Jersey City, N.J., with a 1-0 record in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) on Friday, and hoped to improve their record.
Following Levering’s advice, the Lions attacked early and often against NJCU. After a foul in the Gothic Knights box in the 10th minute, Goldman converted a penalty kick to put the team up, 1-0.
The College didn’t look back after that. Both Levering and freshman midfielder Despina Lianidis scored twice during the match, and the latter clinched her first career collegiate goals.
Freshmen midfielders Joriam Rivera, Haley Bodden and Alexa Beatty also all scored against NJCU, and Rivera scored her first goal as a Lion.
While the offense kept the ball in the Gothic Knights end, the Lions defense held their opponents to only two shots.
The team traveled back to the College for its final game of the week’s long stretch against the Widener University Pride on Sunday.
While they outshot their opponent just as they did in their previous games, the Lions were not as dominant on possession early in the matchup, and the Pride had chances to push into the team’s end. However, they were unable to convert any of these into shots.
The Pride defense was in great form. The team kept the Lions offense off balance throughout most of the first half and took the ball out of their own zone.
The Lions pushed past this challenging defense in the 19th minute, when Scognamiglio was able to knock a shot past the Pride to put her team up, 1-0.
The rest of the half saw the Pride and Lions battle across the field, yet neither were able to make a dent. Scognamiglio said playing with such a small lead wasn’t easy.
“The one goal lead is probably one of the most dangerous leads to have in soccer, especially going into halftime,” Scognamiglio said. “In the last 25 minutes of the first half, we couldn’t find the back of the net and we had a lot of opportunities.”
Coach Joe Russo must have given a motivational halftime speech because his team came out swinging. Sixteen seconds in, junior midfielder Elizabeth Thoreson scored her third goal of the season unassisted. She caught the Pride off guard.
The scoring didn’t stop there. The Pride committed a foul inside their own box in the 47th minute, which gave Goldman a chance to extend the lead with a penalty kick.
She slammed the ball off her cleats and into the net, and boosted her team to a 3-0 lead that remained for rest of the game.
The Lions now look toward their next game, an NJAC matchup against Rutgers-Camden at home on Wednesday, Sept. 28. It is part one of a Rutgers double-header, as the team travels to Newark, N.J., to face Rutgers-Newark on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Scognamiglio said she and the team are ready for the challenges.
“We treat them like any other conference game,” Scognamiglio said. “It doesn’t really matter who we play in the NJAC — we come out the same way. What’s important is getting three points and a shutout… Going into those games, (we need to) focus on our strengths, which is possession and making sure we play our game with high intensity.”