By Michael Battista
The Lions raised their undefeated streak to nine games last week, including two wins over New Jersey Athletic Conference opponents. The team came away with a 5-0 victory on the road against Rutgers University-Camden on Sept. 27, before returning home and taking another 4-0 win against Rutgers University-Newark on Saturday, Sept. 30. The Lions improved to 9-0 on the season.
Over the course of the two games, two Lions helped inch themselves higher on all-time lists. Senior forward Christine Levering scored three goals, moving her into second place in all-time at 133 points. Levering currently sits in third place with 54 goals, one goal behind Dana DiBruno (’07) and four goals behind all-time leading goal scorer Traci Tapp (’98).
Senior midfielder Jessica Goldman also made it onto a top 10 list with her performance in the two games. During the Rutgers University-Newark game, Goldman’s assist to Levering’s record setting goal moved her into eighth place for all-time assists with 22 assists.
Goldman, who wasn’t aware that she moved onto the top 10 list, said it gives her more drive to move forward.
“It’s obviously special,” Goldman said. “But it’s just motivation to keep going forward. To not stop there.”
Levering took time to reflect on her teammates and all the work they have been doing in helping her reach this point, but in helping the team this season.
“That just shows how much as a team, this group has been doing well because obviously I can’t do it myself,” Levering said. “Knowing that there’s people getting the assists and the points… it’s humbling.”
While head coach Joe Russo says his team doesn’t look at rankings and accomplishments in the moment, he does say the milestones will be huge accomplishments when they look back.
“They both have done well,” Russo said. “They’re very good players. And the best thing as good of a player Jess and Lev is they’re just better kids. I mean they’re good people. So they mean a lot to our program.”
Besides the two seniors, multiple players proved vital for the team in their routing of their Rutgers rivals.
Against the Scarlet Raptors, Goldman smashed in a shot of her own with an assist of senior midfielder Kayla Bertolino. The first half saw one more goal in store when freshman defender Devon McDonough found herself with the ball. In the ensuing chaos, McDonough passed the ball to sophomore midfielder Alexa Beatty who scored her second goal of the season.
Meanwhile, sophomore goalkeeper Nicole DiPasquale faced three shots in the last 45 minutes, all of which she saved.
The Lions struggled to finish chances early in the second half, with multiple shots sailing over the crossbar. Sophomore midfielder Despina Lianidis was able to score in the back of the net in the 74th minute off an assist from senior forward Hannah Richman.
Only seven minutes later, Richman ripped a long shot to the net’s right side and scored the Lions fifth goal of the match, where the score would stay.
At home against the Raptors, the Lions clamped down on the Scarlet Raiders offense. In total, only two shots were recorded and only one of them was on target. The Lions backline, usually manned by Richman and sophomore defensive duo Ally Deriggi and Jen McGrogan have come together to become one of the top units in Division III. The Lions are the sole Division III team in the nation to not concede a goal this season and are only one of three teams across all divisions to do so.
Deriggi said that it all comes down to being a strong unit with her teammates.
“I just think we work very well together,” DiRoggi said. “We don’t work for ourselves, I think we work for each other and as a team… We connect balls and we’re just always working really hard.”
On the offensive front, the College controlled the home turf with impressive ball control during the first half. It only took Levering five minutes to get the Lions on the scoreboard. Levering got the ball back off a corner kick short pass from Goldman and targeted the top left corner of the goal from the right side of the box.
Later in the first half, Richman saw Lianidis breaking toward an opening in the Newark defense and lobbed a pass her way. The midfielder went on to beat the keeper with a low shot.
Besides her work on the backline, Deriggi found herself in place for an impressive goal 20 yards out in the closing stages of the first half. It was her first goal as a Lion.
“I checked in for the pass (and) I got the pass,” Deriggi said. “I cut the ball in and I went for it instead of crossing in… I kind of was going down (to the ground) but I was kicking it at the same time. So I did get the kick off.”
In the game’s second half, the Lions took less shots than usual. Levering doesn’t think the team was slowing down. Rather, the team was taking time with possessions.
“We talked at halftime just to keep the same energy and work fast through the middle,” Levering said. “I think we tried doing that and keep possessing it more. In some ways I think we did better and in some ways I think we still have room to improve.”
The added possession time may have given way to Levering scoring her second goal of the day, which put her second on the all-time points list. In the 53rd minute, Levering shot low to the left side of the net off a pass from Bertolino to give her team the final winning score, 4-0.
The team’s next match will be on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7:30 p.m. in Lions Stadium against Gettysburg College. Later on Saturday, Oct. 7, the Lions will play against conference rival Ramapo College at the TCNJ Soccer Complex at 1 p.m.
Russo said it will be nice to play outside of the NJAC for a bit, but he isn’t underestimating the Bullets clip of talent.
“(Gettysburg is) usually always in the top part of the Centennial, which is a strong conference, so it’s usually a good test for us,” Russo said. “We’re looking forward to it. They’re well coached, they’re always organized and their coach Matt (Garrett) does a great job in getting his kids ready to play.”