The No. 23 ranked Rowan field hockey team kicked off homecoming weekend at Richard Wackar Stadium with a 3-2 win over New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival and No. 13 ranked Kean University Cougars, to improve to 7-6 on the season and 2-1 in NJAC play.
The Cougars went after it on offense early, maintaining possession in scoring range for most of the first five minutes of the game, but goalkeeper Mariah Juiliano and the Profs’ defensive unit held up, despite Kean receiving three corners.
Even though it was the first game of her career, you could never tell by the way Juiliano played.
“I definitely had a bunch of nerves going into the game, but I’ve been waiting all season for this so I know I had to show up, come out, and do my thing,” Juiliano said.
Her performance was dominant throughout, as she recorded a staggering 16 saves. The boost couldn’t have been more critical for a team in need of a big victory.
“Mariah saved our butts,” Julia Cavicchio said. “She played outstanding, and the whole team congratulated her and told her how great she played, and I really hope she’s playing in more games.”
Rowan struck first with 4:21 left in the first quarter when Vanessa DiDonato used some shifty moves to get past multiple defenders to put the Profs up early.
It didn’t take long for Rowan to get back on offense, as Amber Powell and Cavicchio took advantage of a corner opportunity, with Powell passing it to Cavicchio, who blasted it into the goal from 15 yards out. This put the Profs up two entering the second quarter.
“Any goal is like a breath of fresh air, it’s the best feeling in the world,” Cavicchio said.
Kean had multiple corner opportunities late in the second quarter, but Juiliano and the defense held strong and kept the Cougars off the board, as Rowan took a 2-0 lead into the half.
A pivotal scoring opportunity for the Cougars presented itself early in the third, when they were given a penalty shot that could shorten the Profs lead to one, but Megan Stumps’ shot hit the goalpost, and what could’ve been a momentum boost for the Cougars turned into one for the Profs.
Rowan responded less than three minutes after the penalty shot, when Cavicchio got one through Kean goalkeeper Jenna Flemings’ legs, and Grace Fenton tapped it in to give the Profs a commanding 3-0 lead.
Kean eventually responded late in the third with a goal from Laura Stump, and another from Caroline Pease with less than three minutes left in the game to put pressure on the Profs’ defense. Kean’s relentless offensive pressure wasn’t enough, as Rowan held on to cap off a very impressive debut for the sophomore goalkeeper.
“The mentality that I had was that one percent knowing that at the end of the day, it was our game,” Juiliano said. “We played strong the whole game, I played the strong the whole game, and I wanted to stick through that throughout the last few corners with the good shots coming my way.”
After losing three of their past four and dropping down the rankings as a result, the Profs were thrilled to get this win. It moved Rowan up to second in the NJAC, now above Kean and Stockton, and only trailing TCNJ.
“With a conference win it’s always important,” Head coach Michelle Andre said. “Coming down to seeding wherever we’re going to be in the conference tournament and to make sure we have the right momentum heading into playoffs.”
With the postseason drawing closer and two more NJAC games on the horizon, they’re hoping that this can be the turning point of their season.
“We had a rough start during the beginning of the season, and this win against Kean is a real confidence boost and I think it’s gonna really elevate our game heading into the postseason,” Cavicchio said.
The Profs stay home for another NJAC matchup next Saturday, Oct. 21, when Montclair State comes to town. The team’s seniors will be honored pregame during the team’s Senior Night.
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