Montclair State women's soccer
(Photo courtesy Montclair State Athletics)

TCNJ Upset Montclair State in Women's Soccer Duel

On a rainy Saturday at Montclair State University, the No. 11 Red Hawks women's soccer team hosted No. 14 TCNJ for the 45th time in program history in their fifth conference game of the year.

The most recent US Soccer Coaches Poll before today's game ranked the Red Hawks Women's Soccer team 11th, and the TCNJ Lions, 14th. Red Hawks Head Coach Patrick Naughter's team came into today's game sporting a 9-1-2 overall record but a 3-0-2 record against the New Jersey Athletic (NJAC) conference. Meanwhile, their opponents were a perfect 5-0.

On almost this exact date a year ago, the Red Hawks beat TCNJ on the road 3-2. When any high school or college team sees that their rival has been ranked ahead of them, it's sure to cause a stir. This may have been why the TCNJ Lions women's soccer team had a chip on their shoulder when they took the field at MSU Soccer Park on Saturday to take on one of their biggest rivals.

TCNJ Dominates First Half

Six minutes into the first half, TCNJ women's soccer got on the board first when their leading goal scorer on the season, Victoria D'Imperio scored on an assist from NJAC offensive player of the week Emma Pascarella. Five minutes later, Pascarella intercepted a pass before dribbling to the edge of Montclair State's 18 and drilling a right-footed shot into the bottom left corner of the net to stretch TCNJ's lead to two.

For the rest of the first half, Montclair State struggled to create any offense and their graduate student goalkeeper Haley Martin had to make three saves, which kept the Red Hawks in the game.

The Red Hawks starting backline for this match which had held opponents to two goals in their last three matches, would struggle mightily to hold the TCNJ's ferocious offense at bay. But today, the Red Hawk backline ran into a TCNJ lineup that featured two players who were on hot streaks in Offensive POTW Pascarella and Rookie of the Week Alyssa Alfano, who would both find their ways on to the scoresheet in the second half.

Lions Roar, Red Hawks Claw Back

In the 47th minute, TCNJ were on the offensive again when D'Imperio drilled a shot that was saved by Martin. She then picked up her own rebound inside the 18-yard box before crossing to Lindsey O'Keefe who wasted no time slotting the ball past Martin to give the visitors from Ewing a three-nil lead (as the Brits like to say).

With this rivalry game slipping away from them, the Montclair State Red Hawks began to respond. In the 50th minute, Red Hawks midfielder Meagan O'Callahan took a free kick from the edge of TCNJ's 18-yard box and curled a low shot that was heading inside the near post, but the goalkeeper was able to save O'Callahan's shot without letting up a rebound.

The Red Hawks finally caught a break in the 64th minute, when one of their players was tripped inside the box. The referee awarded a penalty kick that Red Hawk senior Aileen Cahill stepped up to take. Cahill took a shot that was saved by the goalkeeper and left a rebound. She then ran towards the loose ball and slid into the keeper while trying to kick it, but the ball bounced behind the goalkeeper and over the line to pull one back for the hosts.

As the game neared its end, Montclair remained down by two goals, but refused to quit. In the 82nd minute, Cahill one-time volleyed a cross that hit the top woodwork and in the 89th minute Red Hawk freshman, Shannon Mullins hit the top woodwork with a header. But despite these efforts, D'Imperio netted her second goal of the game in stoppage time for the visitors, who went on to upset Montclair State by a score of 4-1.

Montclair State Humbled by TCNJ

Today's loss was Montclair State's women's soccer team's worst defeat since Sept. 3. On that day they were defeated by Hartford University by the same score.

Lyneth Restrepo was one of two freshmen who started today for Montclair State in this conference game. Restrepo described what was different about playing against the first-place team in the NJAC.

They have some really good individual players. They have amazing technique and tactical view of the field. Rowan had some of those qualities, but they had this fire in them. They wanted to beat us today and it was just a fiery game.

Montclair State have no time to fret about this loss because their next game is the Route 46 Derby. That means it's Red Hawks versus their historical rivals, William Paterson University which will be played at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey on Oct. 19.

Restrepo echoed the sentiment that her team need to show the mental toughness to get past today's loss and forge ahead on their quest to achieve their team goals, which they can only do, together.

Keep our heads up. No matter what gets thrown at us, just continue fighting, continue trying to get the ball behind the net. Working as a team... Building each other up, not letting anything get us down. The best thing we can do is just work together.

Montclair State Women's Soccer Game Schedule

Anthony Paradiso
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