By Michael Battista
It was a bad week to wear scarlet, as both Rutgers University-Camden and Rutgers University-Newark fell to the women’s soccer team.
The Lions won on Wednesday, Sept 28, 5-0, at home and Saturday, Oct. 1, 3-0, on the road, respectively, in New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) games.
The women won seven consecutive games and haven’t let up a goal in six straight games. The Lions are nursing an undefeated NJAC record of 4-0-0 this season.
Both games became physical battles, as the Lions and both Rutgers campuses racked up multiple fouls throughout the week. Camden earned 12 during its game.
Freshman midfielder Despina Lianidis said the Lions are prepared for anything opponents throw at them.
“We can play either physical or technical, and we decided to play both, half and half, so we could compete with any team that decides to be physical and not as technical as us,” Lianidis said.
The Lions offense continues to be the star this season. While the defense held strong, senior goalkeeper Jessica Weeder only had to handle one shot on goal through both games — the offense kept control for the majority of the game. The team had a total of 54 total shots against both the Scarlet Raptors and Scarlet Raiders.
During Wednesday’s match against the Scarlet Raptors, the Lions took a quick lead in the seventh minute, when junior midfielder Elizabeth Thoreson scored her third goal of the season. Senior forward Christine Levering’s cross into the box was fumbled by the Scarlet Raptors goalie, which allowed Thoreson to capitalize.
Chaos in the Scarlet Raptors box would help the Lions later on, as freshman midfielder Joriam Riveria rebounded off a blocked shot from Thoreson to sink it. Coach Joe Russo said these hectic moments really benefited the team.
“I thought we did that in pretty good stretches where we had a good method to the madness out there,” Russo said.
While the offense dominated, the physical game also took its toll. Levering needed to leave the field when blood started pouring from her face and onto her jersey.
Sophomore midfielder Arielle Curtis also had the crowd worried. When freshman midfielder Alexa Beatty crossed a ball in front of the net, Curtis jumped and headed it in for a goal. She injured her leg on the way down and needed to leave the game. At this time, there is no update on her condition, but she did not play against Newark.
Coach Joe Russo said no matter how physical a game gets, he doesn’t let it affect him or his team.
“To be honest, we don’t even talk about it,” Russo said. “We just try to play quickly and play the way we wanna play… We’re really not concerned with the physicality of the whole thing.”
The game finished off after Lianidis knocked two past the goalkeeper in the second half. She was able to break past the defense and the goalie for an open net goal. A few minutes later, she was able to capitalize on another goalie fumble when she rebounded in a blocked shot.
Lianidis said her work during the entire game helped her score for the team.
“I know for me, personally, I had to keep working and I know (for) the rest of the team our energy was high the whole game,” Lianidis said.
On a cold Saturday night in Newark, the Lions struck early again in the game. Junior midfielder Jessica Goldman stepped up and knocked in a penalty kick in the 18th minute for her fourth goal this season.
Three of those goals have come from penalty kicks, and Goldman says one of her tricks for consistent success is to never make eye contact with the keeper.
“Whenever I get a penalty shot, I make sure to just stay calm and keep focus,” Goldman said. “I never look at the keeper because I don’t want her positioning to affect where I place the ball. I just take a deep breath and remind myself that it’s a simple pass into the goal.”
The College has been the first to score in every game it’s played this season. However, the Lions continued another trend where after scoring early on, long periods of time would pass where they couldn’t finish offensive attempts, leaving the Lions with a dangerously close lead.
Goldman says it’s all about understanding the other team, and that takes time to do.
“I think it’s really great that we’re scoring goals early on,” Goldman said. “It’s important to make a mark on the game right away and not come out slow… As far as not finding the net for long periods of time, I think that it just takes time to get settled into a game. Sometimes, it takes a while to figure out a team and find a game plan.”
However, the defense efforts and constant offensive attack by the team kept the Raiders from making any moves, leaving them without a single shot all game.
Goldman, Levering, Thoreson and Rivera all led the team with three shots each, seven of them being on goal.
While Goldman was the only one of the four to make a goal during a game, Thoreson was able to cross a pass to senior midfielder Lauren Malajian who chipped it past the goalkeeper in the 54th minute for her first goal of the session.
The final goal came from junior forward Hannah Richman, who blasted a long goal from 35 yards out into the back of the net, giving the Lions a 3-0 lead and her fourth goal of the season.
The Newark trip is only the first stop on a four-game stretch that sees the Lions on the road. Their next game will be against non-conference team Gettysburg College on Wednesday, Oct. 5, in Gettysburg, Pa.