On Tuesday night, Rowan’s third seed women’s soccer team defeated second seed Montclair State University 1-0 in the Semifinals of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) playoffs.
For Rowan, they scored early in this contest, much like they did against Rutgers-Camden in the opening round of the tournament, which was all they needed to secure the victory.
Junior forward Nina Carlson was the catalyst in the play, after she was able to scoot the ball away, she sent the ball to senior forward Aidan Sheehan who made her way inside the box and past the diving goalkeeper Haley Martin of the Red Hawks.
Rowan’s goalkeeper Bristol Pizzuto reflected on the importance of Sheehan’s goal and getting an early lead.
“Aiden scoring so early set the tone for the team and gave us the fire we needed to feel that we can do this,” Pizzuto said. “We haven’t lost a lead yet once we score first so I’m happy we could keep that up.”
Sheehan, who was recently named to the NJAC All-Conference First Team, continued her campaign as the leading goal scorer for the Profs, adding her tenth goal of the season last night, while Carlson dished out her fourth assist of the year.
“Aidan, she started off really strong at the beginning of the year scoring goals, and now at the end of the year she’s starting to score goals, so hopefully we can keep riding that.” Head Coach Scott Leacott said.
Scoring in the 11th minute was all the Profs needed to do to secure the victory, but The Red Hawks did not go down easy. They retaliated with multiple scoring attempts, in which Pizzuto shut down. Pizzuto faced three shots in the first half and collected two saves, but still felt pressure from the Red Hawks offense.
“I knew that I couldn’t let in a goal, and I felt pressure but not anything too heavy. I play best when I’m not thinking about the negatives and just focusing on the task at hand: making sure we keep this lead,” Pizzuto said. ”The goal coming in the first half definitely let the defense and the entire team take a bit of tension off but it only made us work stronger.”
In the second half, the Profs defense faced an immense amount of pressure from the Red Hawks offense, taking shot after shot directly at Pizzuto. Using all of her 6’1 frame, she collected save after save, punching away shots, falling to the ground to corral attempts, and diving on top of the ball to secure it.
Pizzuto knew how important it was for the Profs to not settle and give it their all the entire second half.
“Coming out in the second half we knew that we had to play like it was 0-0 and not get too comfortable,” Pizzuto said. “The season was on the line and we knew we needed 90 minutes of everything we have to come out of there with a win.”
Pizzuto faced 13 shots in the second half and collected seven saves. While the Red Hawks were able to find some holes in the midfield region, the Profs backline shut down any attempt at a clear goal. Seniors Arianna Durling, who was named to the NJAC All-Conference First Team, and Kelsi Stangl, along with Kalin Priest, a junior, and freshman Emma DeMaise were able to stop the Red Hawks comeback attempt.
Pizzuto, who was named to the NJAC All-Conference Second Team, collected nine saves in the win, which was her second highest total saves all season long.
“She was fantastic tonight, they put a lot of pressure on us, they served a ton of balls in, and tried to force you into mistakes,” Leacott said. “We made a few mistakes, but that’s why you have a good goalkeeper back there to solve those problems.”
The Profs ended the game taking eight shots, half of which were on goal. For Montclair State, they took 16 shots, nine of which were on goal, while Martin came up with three saves in the eight shots faced.
With this Semifinals win, the Profs will head to Ewing to face off against The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) on Friday at 6:30 p.m. in the NJAC Championship match.
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