By Michael Battista
The women’s soccer team blew past two opponents last week. The Lions combined for 16 goals over a grand total of 180 minutes. On Thursday, Sept. 21, the Lions defeated Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham, 8-0 on the road. The team then returned home on Saturday, Sept. 23, and earned a conference win against New Jersey City University, 8-0.
Seven Lions helped put the team on the board against the Devils, with senior midfielder Jessica Goldman scoring twice. Her first goal came only eight minutes into the game when she beat Devils freshman goalkeeper Kassidy Germann with a shot to the bottom right corner with an assist from freshman defender Ally Weaver.
The seniors were the game changers during the first half as forward Christine Levering and forward Hannah Richman also scored in the 13th and 42nd minute respectively. Sophomore defender Jen McGrogan launched a free-kick into the box where Levering received the cross and headed in a shot. Meanwhile, Richman scored when she tapped in the ball off a pass from freshman midfielder Faith Eichenour.
Heading into halftime, the Devils only took one shot at the College’s goal. The Lions defensive backline, comprised of sophomore Ally DeRiggi, senior Kelly Wieczerzak and McGrogan, have only allowed 29 shots in total through their first seven games. Only 12 of those have been on target. They are only one of the three NCAA Division III teams to not concede a goal this season.
“We’ve been playing well,” said coach Joe Russo. “I think we’ve been defending collectively as a group and we’ve been pretty fortunate in our finishing… It’s been pretty well spread out amongst our whole group.
In the second half, multiple players earned their first goals of the season including sophomore midfielder trio Taylor Nolan, Alexa Pestritto, Alexa Beatty and freshman forward Stephanie Figueroa.
During the last 25 minutes of play, Russo subbed out sophomore goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale for freshman goalkeeper Alexandra Panasuk. Against FDU-Florham, Panasuk only faced two shots and recorded one save. With the win behind them, the Lions next match would be their first game of the season in the TCNJ Soccer Complex against New Jersey City University.
The team applied pressure to the Gothic Knights quickly, pushing downfield immediately and finding itself offside in two back-to-back calls within the first five minutes of play. The effort paid off in the fifth minute when senior midfielder Kayla Bertolino scored with the help of McGrogan and Levering.
Freshman forward Julia Obst said that her team’s quick play was following a pattern.
“In the beginning of the game it was really exciting because we got the ball and went right down there,” Obst said. “It’s always fun to score in the first 10 seconds. That’s a big part, most goals are scored in the first and last 10 seconds of each half. That’s when they’re caught.”
The team finished most of their chances in the first half. After Bertolino’s early strike, the Lions found a lot of success between the tenth and 20th minutes.
In the 12th minute, Nolan received a pass from Wieczerzak and got past the defense and beat the keeper with a shot to upper right corner. After that, Levering and junior midfielder Elizabeth Thoresen scored back-to-back goals seconds apart from one another in the 16th minute thanks to assists from freshman midfielder Kelly Carolan.
“The three center mids — me, Taylor and Allie — all working together, pressing, talking,” Carolan said. “So I think just the work in practice really paid off.”
Before the teams could break for half, freshman forward/midfielder Caroline Rubin challenged for the ball and got tangled up with an NJCU player. She fell to the ground holding her right leg. Her clear distress could be heard and seen by the crowd in the Soccer Complex as she needed to be helped to her feet and taken off the field in a cart.
After the match, Russo was asked if she was able to walk on her own power on the sideline.
“Not very well,” Russo said. “We really don’t know at this point (how bad it is). She got her knee tangled up with one of their defenders. Time will tell.”
On Monday after the team’s practice, Rubin confirmed that she will undergoing an MRI sometime in the next week.
In the second half, Russo’s squad had trouble finishing in the early goings. While keeping the Gothic Knights from taking any shots during the last 45 minutes, the Lions multiple chances yielded no results.
In the 70th minute, Figueroa caused an opponent to turnover the ball in their own box. Instead of taking it herself, she passed to sophomore forward Gianna Zarra, who slammed in the ball to the net and earned her first goal of the year.
Obst then netted two goals in the last 25 minutes, with the second coming off an assist from Lianidis to put the Lions up by 8-0.
With a 7-0 undefeated record, the Lions have a double dose of Rutgers on the menu next. In consecutive conference matches, the team will head to Camden to take on Rutgers University-Camden on Wednesday, Sept. 27. They then come home to take on Rutgers University-Newark on Saturday, Sept. 30, in the TCNJ Soccer Complex at 1 p.m.