Gazda’s halftime speech sparks Metuchen’s strong second half

Carteret's Ciara Alston (left) battles for the ball with Metuchen's Tracy Michalski during the first half of Wednesday's game. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Carteret’s Ciara Alston (left) battles for the ball with Metuchen’s Tracy Michalski during the first half of Wednesday’s game. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

METUCHEN — For the majority of the first half Wednesday afternoon, the field was tilted in Carteret’s favor, with the Ramblers coming away with the game’s better scoring chances. But, the Metuchen High School girls soccer team regrouped at halftime and came out with a more assertive second stanza, emerging with a 3-0 win thanks to a pair of goals from Katharine Chura.

At intermission, Metuchen head coach Val Gazda spoke to her team about getting back to what had worked for them coming into the game, and about how they had managed to win their first seven games by a combined score of 36-3.

“I actually played the role of the sports psychologist, tried to get them regrouped as to what has gotten them to the record that they’re at and talked them through good positive things and positive outcomes,” Gazda said. “And I think it helped because they put together 40 minutes of good solid soccer in the second half.”

Chura got the Bulldogs on the board five minutes into the second half, pounding home a header off a corner kick from her sister Melissa. From there, Metuchen controlled the ball better than they did in the first half, consistently working their way deep into Carteret territory and forcing the Ramblers’ defenders to work hard for the ball.

Only 11 minutes after the goal that got Metuchen going, Emily Costello made a great move down the right wing, eventually crossing a pass to Katharine Chura, who settled the ball to her feet and beat Carteret goalkeeper Aisha Chauhan to make it 2-0.

“Having kids that have a nose to the goal is a pleasure, because then you have more options and I like it,” Gazda said. “The shortest kid on the field launches a header into the net from her sister and it’s not too bad to see that.”

Metuchen would add a third goal with just minutes remaining in the contest when Savannah Wolfe worked the ball down the wing and centered it to Allie Chalker at the top of the box. Chalker played it down to her right foot and blasted a shot over Chauhan’s outstretched arms for the match’s final tally.

Even after dominating the first half, Carteret couldn’t get a goal past Emily Buchanan, who made four saves in the contest. The dynamic scoring duo of Ciara Alston and Fiorella Doglio for the Ramblers’ was held in check, but Gazda noted that she wasn’t sure if that would be the case coming in.

“Carteret handed it to us in the first 20 minutes and pretty much the whole first half and once we saw what they tried to do against us, it took time to adjust and tried to really find out what we had afforded to us,” she said. “I would take those two girls on our team in a heartbeat.”

The contest got a bit choppy in the second half, with multiple fouls leaving players on the ground and looking for assistance to get to the sideline. But, the top two teams in the Blue Division battled each other hard in the first of two meetings this season. They’ll meet again in Carteret on Oct. 14 and if the Bulldogs are to sweep the season series, Gazda knows they need to play a full 80 minutes of solid soccer.

“The first thing out of my mouth was that we were lucky to get out of here with a 3-0 victory, because Carteret wanted it more,” Gazda said. “But I’m proud of how we played in the second half.”

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