Rowan Women’s Soccer falls to TCNJ in the NJAC Championship

Rowan Women's Soccer huddles up before a game. The team lost the NJAC Championship game. - Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023. - Photo via Lee Kotzen

In what was supposed to be a magical night for the undefeated Rowan women’s soccer team— where they were meant to celebrate the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship— turned upside down, as they instead watched The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Lions celebrate their 20th conference title on the Profs’ home turf.

The game was a tight contest throughout, with one goal being scored by either team for the first 89 minutes and 55.1 seconds. That goal was scored by the NJAC goal leader and TCNJ midfielder Victoria D’Imperio, and assisted by the NJAC assist leader and TCNJ forward Emma Pasquerello.

Rowan’s goalie Calista Burke had a career-high in saves with ten. At one point in the second half, a ball was kicked across from the corner, and Burke came out of the goal and dove forward, punching the ball away. It was an incredible play. Despite this, Burke is, of course, not happy with what happened.

“I am definitely disappointed,” Burke said. “We are not done yet. We are going to use this as motivation going into the NCAA tournament.”

Even though the Profs were shut out, they had plenty of opportunities to score. However, anytime they did get those opportunities, they were not able to put pressure on the goalie. The shots were either too high, to the left or to the right.

“We generated a good amount of opportunities,” head coach Scott Leacott said. “We did not get numerical advantages a lot of the time. We had big chances to put the ball away. They did. That is the way the sport goes.”

The best opportunity was when Rowan’s two leading scorers, forwards Mackenzie Clement and Olivia Giordano, each got an opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net. Clement had the ball in the box and shot it, but the Lions’ goalie Bella Norman saved it. Giordano was there for another attempt, but it went to the far right. This would prove to be the Profs’ last real opportunity of the game.

On the other side of the ball, it was a real defensive showdown on both sides. Emma DeMaise was everywhere, proving once again why she won NJAC Defensive Player of the Year. Manon Bada, Meghan Kryjer, and Julianna Giordano were also disruptive and made their presence known whenever the Lions had the ball on Rowan’s side of midfield.

With this physical play, there were fouls by both teams throughout the game. Olivia received a yellow card for the Profs, while a pair of TCNJ midfielders, Alyssa Alfano and Rachel Robichaud, also got yellow cards.

“They were putting bodies on us when we were not on the ball,” Leacott said. “We played physically, and they played physically. I do not think anything was dirty. I do not think anything was worth a card.”

In the first game of the season against TCNJ, the Profs won the game 1-0, but despite the outcome, Leacott was more impressed by the team’s performance in this game.

“I think we played better in this game than up at their place,” Leacott said. “I think it is a staple of our program how incredibly hard we work. These girls put in so much effort, and it is so clear to see. Our goal is to try to outwork the other team on that field.”

TCNJ’s second goal occurred with only 4.1 seconds remaining in the game. After this goal, the Lions’ entire bench rushed the field in celebration, either not realizing, or not caring that there were still 4.1 seconds left. So everyone had to clear the field, and play resumed for those 4.1 seconds. Then, the celebration happened all over again.

“I think it probably was not the best thing to do,” Burke said. “At that point, I was coming out of the net anyway. So, it is whatever.”

Perhaps this will be extra motivation for the Profs if they face the Lions again in the NCAA Division III tournament. If they do play, it will settle the 1-1 series tie that they have this season, and it would be fitting for these teams to match up once again, this time with the chance to end the other’s season.

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