Vanessa DiDonato’s five-goal game sends Rowan Field Hockey to fifth straight NJAC Championship game

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Vanessa DiDonato brings the ball up. DiDonato scored five goals in the win over Stockton. - Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. - Photo via Lee Kotzen

A bitter, cold, Nov. 1 night was the scene during the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) tournament semi-final matchup, as the 15-5 Ospreys of Stockton University looked to come into Glassboro with their sights set on an upset of the favored and No. 18 nationally ranked Rowan Profs.

While the game started slow, Rowan got on the board first as Junior Captain Julia Cavicchio netted the first goal about halfway through the second period. Cavicchio seemingly set the tone for Rowan as the ball stayed on the Ospreys’ side of midfield for the duration of the first half. 

As a result, Redshirt freshman goalie, Mariah Juiliano, faced just three shots on goal all night, saving each one that came her way. 

Even with a 1-0 lead, the Profs weren’t content, as junior Vanessa DiDonato decided it was her turn to get in on the action. She added to the Profs’ lead with another goal just a few minutes before the half to put Rowan up 2-0 on their NJAC rivals.

The real domination started with a penalty shot as time expired going into halftime. Head coach Michelle Andre had no doubt about who should be taking it, as DiDonato lined up and sunk her second goal of the evening, sneaking it past Stockton goalie Hannah Ayari-Dias. 

“Definitely causing the penalty shot was a good feeling and when they called my name to take it, I knew there was no other option but to make it,” DiDonato said.

Even with two of the team’s three goals entering the half, she credited her teammates when speaking about her first-half success.

“We connected in the first half because we moved as a unit and we had each other’s backs,” DiDonato said. 

This was just the beginning of the junior standout’s night. DiDonato came out swinging in the second half, tallying three more goals throughout the duration of the last two periods to put the nail in the coffin.

“It’s great to have Vanessa, you saw her put up five goals,” Andre said. “She will also do things that will give balls to other people. The eyes might draw to her and other players have opportunities to score or get tips. She is not just capable of playing and putting balls in the cage, she plays end to end and works for every goal she gets.”

Now with a win over Stockton in the semi-finals, Rowan will be looking for their third straight NJAC Championship title. The message was simple.

“It [the title] needs to stay in Glassboro,” Andre said.

The quest for a third straight NJAC title continues on Saturday, Nov. 4, when The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) comes to town for a rematch of last year’s championship game.

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