Monthly Archives: October 2013

Bulldogs sweep their way to title

Metuchen's Catherine Popow returns a shot to New Egypt's Anna Farrand during their first-singles match on Monday. Photo by: Jason Towlen

Metuchen’s Catherine Popow returns a shot to New Egypt’s Anna Farrand during their first-singles match on Monday. Photo by: Jason Towlen

METUCHEN — On a day when the Metuchen High School girls tennis team repeated as Central Group I champions, third-singles player Lisa Allgauer was entrenched in the match of the day against New Egypt’s Dianna Byrne. With all of the other four matches already complete and the Bulldogs already having wrapped up the title, Allgauer trailed in the second set, but rallied to win the final three games, capping an afternoon sweep for Metuchen.

“I think she got off to a good start and when the match got a little bit closer, she played a little bit more tentatively and I think towards the end, she was down 3-4 and those last three games were her best of the match,” coach Rob Strauss said. “She really started to believe in her stroke and regain her confidence and I think she finished the match off really strong. We need that from her from the start on Thursday.”

The Bulldogs (16-1) advance to Thursday’s state finals at Mercer County Park in West Windsor on a serious roll. The top seed in the Central Group I bracket hasn’t dropped a set since the quarterfinals against Point Pleasant Beach, after sweeping Highland Park and New Egypt. First singles player Catherine Popow did her part to get Metuchen off on a good foot, disposing of Anna Farrand 6-0, 6-0. From there, her teammates did the rest to ensure a clean victory.

“When we’re warming up, I usually try to analyze what her weaknesses are and coach will help me out between games,” Popow said. “Like he’ll point some stuff out to me and I was able to pick up on one of her weaker areas and I just kept repeating the same shot that was working. I’m just so glad we got to do this again and we’re hoping to keep it going on Thursday.”

Anna Popow, Catherine’s younger sister, was nearly as dominant in second singles, beating Zena Merni 6-0, 6-1. With Allgauer’s victory, Metuchen only dropped seven games in the three singles matches.

“Coming into the season, we had high expectations, knowing we had our three singles returning and Tiffany has been playing great at doubles. But we had three new girls come in and fill the voids and it’s pretty amazing what we can do when we play up to our potential,” Strauss said.

Tiffany Yao and Siri Uppuluri dominated their first-doubles match against Cassidy Wiltshire and Brielle Perrins, 6-0, 6-1, and Laura James and Christina Michalski sealed the deal against Devin North and Sarah Daly 6-1, 6-3. Strauss said he hopes his squad plays like it did on Monday every day, winning all five matches in straight sets, but knows that momentum is key in doing so.

“Obviously we want to try and whoop them, but I do think that coming off the semi-final win against Highland Park and being so dominant in that match helped us,” he said. “It gave us a lot of confidence today and the girls just executed really well today.”

Metuchen 5, New Egypt 0

Singles: Cathernie Popow (Met.) d. Anna Farrand 6-0, 6-0; Anna Popow (Met.) d. Zena Merni 6-0, 6-1; Lisa Allgauer (Met.) d. Dianna Byrne 6-2, 6-4. Doubles: Siri Uppuluri and Tiffany Yao (Met.) d. Cassidy Wiltshire and Brielle Perrins 6-0, 6-1; Laura James and Christina Michalski (Met.) d. Devin North and Sarah Daly 6-1, 6-3.Records: Metuchen 16-1, New Egypt 9-4.

Ford, South Brunswick roll past Piscataway

Piscataway's Tajae Sharpe fumbles the ball as he is hit by South Brunswick's Chrisjon Summers, left, and Nicolas Botett. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

Piscataway’s Tajae Sharpe fumbles the ball as he is hit by South Brunswick’s Chrisjon Summers, left, and Nicolas Botett. Photo by: Mark R. Sullivan

MONMOUTH JCT. — With revenge on their minds, the South Brunswick High School football team mauled Piscataway 42-14, behind the legs of bruising fullback Dahrae Ford.

The senior, who came into the game as The Home News Tribune’s Player of the Week, rushed 25 times for 162 yards and four touchdowns, helping lead a reversal from last season’s matchup which Piscataway won 47-14.

Ford scored on runs of 1, 12, 2 and 1 yards.

“We knew that we lost against them last year and we knew we had to be on point this year and do everything right,” Ford said. “Just come out and play Viking football and we knew that if we played hard, we’d come out with the victory. Our line was awesome for us tonight.”

Amir Johnson scored on a pair of one-yard runs to cap the South Brunswick scoring, the second of which came at the end of a 16-play, 88-yard drive that took up 10:42, stretching from the third quarter to the fourth. Johnson ran for 109 yards and completed two of his three passes for 39 yards in the contest, but was complimentary of his teammates afterwards.

“I just have to make my reads and if I make the correct read, someone is going to be open and have a big hole,” he said.

The bright spot on the night for Piscataway was freshman tailback Elijah Barnwell, who carried the ball 19 times for 174 yards and a touchdown. But other than Barnwell, Piscataway couldn’t find enough players to step up and keep South Brunswick at bay. The Vikings scored the final 28 points after the score was tied 14-14.

“This is something we can do every week, of course,” Ford said. “They did it to us last year and we knew we wanted to come out and do the same thing to them.”

Tailback Dontae Strickland added 103 yards of offense for South Brunswick as they moved over .500 for the season. Strickland teamed with Ford and Johnson to create a three-headed monster out of the Vikings’ backfield, which is something they have been since Joe Goerge took over as head coach last season.

“We have a lot of good players in our backfield and it’s great to win a game like this,” Johnson said. “We had a good week in practice, prepared well and stuck it to them.”

 

Piscataway 6 8 0 0 14
South Brunswick 7 14 7 14 42

 

SCORING SUMMARY

P – Pierson 3 run (pass failed)

SB – Johnson 1 run (Olsson kick)

SB – Ford 1 run (Olsson kick)

P – Barnwell 2 run (Robertson pass from Strother)

SB – Ford 12 run (Olsson kick)

SB – Ford 2 run (Olsson kick)

SB – Johnson 1 run (Olsson kick)

SB – Ford 1 run (Olsson kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: P – Barnwell 19-174, Foat 4-14, Strother 1-3, Pierson 1-3, Robterson 1-minus 2; SB – Ford 25-162; Johnson 13-109, Strickland 10-66.

PASSING: P – Strother 6-18-83-1; SB – Johnson 2-3-37.

RECEIVING: P – Isijola 3-46, Eley 1-18, Bobbit 1-13, Pierson 1-1; SB – Strickland 2-37.

East Brunswick scores five goals in final 25 minutes to remain unbeaten

EAST BRUNSWICK — After being held scoreless well into the second half of their contest Tuesday evening, the East Brunswick High School girls soccer team erupted for five goals in the final 25 minutes, beating Woodbridge, 5-0, on a night where they recognized their nine seniors.

One of those seniors, midfielder Gabby Sachs, scored a pair of goals on nearly identical runs to the far post six minutes apart to put the game out of reach and keep The Home News Tribune’s top-ranked team unbeaten on the season.

“I’ve been the person that’s had to have been there for every cross and I haven’t been able to score, but Sydney Rosa keeps telling me to stay with it and that I have it in me and finally tonight, of all nights, I was able to score twice. It feels great,” Sachs said.

After Kaitlyn Roughan got the Bears on the board in the 54th minute with a perfectly lofted free kick from the left wing that eluded Woodbridge (5-8) goalkeeper Maura Walsh, Sachs went to work. In the 63rd minute, she made a great run to the right post as fellow classmate Ellie DiLiberto muscled her way through the Barrons defense and into the box. DiLiberto delivered a perfect pass right to Sachs’ right foot and she didn’t miss it.

In the 69th minute, Sachs positioned herself in the same spot of the field, out-maneuvering Woodbridge defenders to get free when Roughan’s corner kick entered the box. When it came down from the brisk air, Sachs tapped it home to put her squad up 3-0.

“Gabby was there on those finishes, kind of mirror images of each other down that right flank,” East Brunswick head coach Kevin Brady said. “She’s been so good for us all year. She’s more of a balanced midfielder; she doesn’t score a ton of goals and doesn’t get as many opportunities to score. But on a senior night like this, it was a great moment for her to have a breakthrough moment.”

East Brunswick (11-0-1) could have had five goals in the first 25 minutes of the contest, but kept sending shots just wide of the net. DiLiberto had a golden chance early on when Sachs sent her through on a nice through ball, but the shot sailed high and wide. Rosa worked her way into the Woodbridge box often in the first half, but couldn’t get a solid look at the net, something that didn’t surprise Brady.

“I’ve known (Woodbridge coach) Brian Figueiredo for a long time and he runs a very organized system. They stayed organized and kept numbers behind the ball, which frustrated us and they can be very effective in the counter attack,” he said. “When you’re in a game where you’re getting multiple chances, the toughest thing to do is not get frustrated. When two or three or four go by that you usually get, it tends to defeat the girls a little bit and it starts to grow and the zero on the scoreboard grows larger as the minutes go by.”

Sydney Greenspan and Carla Lee added the fourth and fifth goals for East Brunswick.

Defense, potent offense has Bishop Ahr on a roll

Old Bridge's Melanie Santurro collides with Bishop Ahr goalkeeper Brianna Foster in the first half of their matchup on Sept. 10.  Photo by: Doug Hood

Old Bridge’s Melanie Santurro collides with Bishop Ahr goalkeeper Brianna Foster in the first half of their matchup on Sept. 10. Photo by: Doug Hood

Take away the second game of their season and the Bishop Ahr High School girls soccer team has been has as perfect as anyone in the state this season.

The Trojans, ranked No. 4 in The Home News Tribune’s Top 10, have a staggering goal differential of plus-38 in nine games this year, led by a goalkeeper who hasn’t allowed a goal in any of her seven victories.

Senior Brianna Foster has seen one soccer ball roll behind her and into the net in 2013, helping Bishop Ahr race out to an 8-1 record in the competitive GMC White Division. Since a 1-0 loss to Old Bridge on Sept. 10, Foster hasn’t allowed a goal and has pitched seven consecutive shutouts, a span that covers 604 minutes of game time.

“Anything in her area, she’s going to get to,” head coach Jim Tavormina said. “She’s had to make a few tough stops this season, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is keep her concentration when she’s not seeing many shots. So it takes a lot to keep that concentration, but when she is, she’s ready.”

With a defensive unit led by Alexia Vassiliadais, Sara Harmon, and a pair of elite scorers in Alexa Povelaitis (10 goals, seven assists) and Jillian Vassallo (eight goals, four assists) Bishop Ahr has outscored their opponents 39-1 this season.

“What’s really nice about this year is that we’re so deep in the back and if someone isn’t having their best game, we have someone else step in and do the job,” Tavormina said. “I have seven starting backs and I can only play four at the same time. Any of them can start at any time. I go by practice and whoever has the best practice, plays. Everybody isn’t going to be on their best game all the time.”

Foster, who is committed to play at Duquesne of the Atlantic 10 next season, has just 27 saves to her name this year, but stats can be deceiving because of the play of the defenders in front of her. Tavormina stresses communication between his defensive players, trying to keep it as simple as possible.

“We just remind them that they need to play together and have good communication. It’s really important to remind them of the basics and it’s our job as coaches to remind them of that,” he said.

Big week for Spotswood

The Chargers, who had a Monday night showdown with Sayreville wiped out due to rain, face two tough tests the remainder of the week to prove they’re for real.

Wednesday, they’ll host one of the conference’s two unbeatens when Metuchen comes to town and Friday, they welcome Carteret (10-2-1). After this week, we’ll know more about Mike Reid’s bunch.

Gold Division race

The race to earn the Gold Division crown is shaping up to be a good one in the season’s final weeks, as Cardinal McCarrick (6-2, 6-1 Gold), Timothy Christian (7-3-1, 5-1 Gold) and Highland Park (4-4, 4-1 Gold) all have a chance to claim the top spot.

Cardinal McCarrick visits Highland Park Friday, while Timothy Christian travels to South River.

Mustangs take care of business

J.F. Kennedy's Casandra Garison blocks a shot by Woodbridge's Deana Kotsianas during the second game of Monday's match. Photo by: Jason Towlen

J.F. Kennedy’s Casandra Garison blocks a shot by Woodbridge’s Deana Kotsianas during the second game of Monday’s match. Photo by: Jason Towlen

ISELIN — With a five-game winning streak on the line and the potential of beating a local rival for the second time in the same season for the first time in school history, the J.F. Kennedy High School girls volleyball team came out and took care of business Monday. The Mustangs, behind stellar play from the front line of sisters Cassandra and Francesa Garison and Alexa Parmann, dominated Woodbridge 2-0 (25-9, 25-16) in front of a raucous crowd to stay hot at the most important time of the season.

“Our girls came out focused in the first set; they were serving really strong and putting the ball exactly where we wanted it to go and that was the game plan,” head coach Robert Hugelmeyer said. “We wanted to take advantage of the crowd early on, knowing we’d have a big crowd today and the girls feed off of that.”

After running away with the first set, J.F. Kennedy was met with a lot more resistance from their neighbors from less than two miles away, but Cassandra Garison put any comeback attempts to rest with her powerful swings. She came up with two aces and multiple blocks to keep momentum on her squad’s side, getting help from the rangy Parmann and her sister Francesa.

“I think after a first set like that, the other team is going to come back more ready to play, so that was the difference,” Hugelmeyer said. “They’re a good team so you expect them to play better. But this feels great; we’ve actually never taken both matches from Woodbridge, we usually end up splitting with them every year, so this feels good for the team.”

With precious few matches remaining before the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, Hugelmeyer knows that his squad still has some work to do if it is going to meet its ultimate goals.

“There’s always room for improvement and there’s always things we want to do better. We went to the semifinals of the GMCT last year and our goal is to get back and win it this year and we feel like we have the ability to do it. I know there are a lot of tough teams in the Red Division, but when the girls play well, they can do it,” Hugelmeyer said.

As is the case in any sport, learning from prior mistakes is key for improvement, and J.F. Kennedy is no exception. Since losing to Old Bridge on Sept. 26, the Mustangs have dropped just two sets, overpowering their opponents and continuing to rack up GMC victories.

“The girls are learning from some of the tougher matches we had in the beginning of the season, especially the two we lost against Colonia and Old Bridge,” Hugelmeyer said. “The girls saw the mistakes they made and they’ve made the proper adjustments and corrections and with volleyball, as the season progresses, the team begins to gel a little bit more.”

J.F. Kennedy will get two cracks at Red Division contenders later this week when its travels to Monroe and East Brunswick. If the Mustangs can escape this week unblemished, it’ll go a long way to strengthen their chances in the postseason.

Montgomery wins first Somerset championship by slimmest of margins

Emily Shugan of Bridgewater High School competes on the uneven bars in the Somerset County Championships on Wednesday. Shugan and Hillsborough's Sarah Pallay tied for the All-Around title. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

Emily Shugan of Bridgewater High School competes on the uneven bars in the Somerset County Championships on Wednesday. Shugan and Hillsborough’s Sarah Pallay tied for the All-Around title. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

MONTGOMERY — In a night full of upsets, the Montgomery High School gymnastics team secured their first Somerset County Tournament Championship, edging defending champion Bridgewater-Raritan by the slimmest of margins, 107.400-107.300 in their home gym Wednesday evening.

The Cougars came into the meet knowing that they had a shot to win, according to head coach Johanna Snedeker, but to win like that was something not even the coach was expecting.

“When the announcer was calling out the scores, I didn’t even realize we were going to win and I was just like ‘wow,’ ” Snedeker said. “Sometimes it just comes down to that and I wasn’t even tracking the scores and the kids were just out here doing their best and having fun.”

Leading the way for Montgomery was Renee Mallick, who won the vault with a score of 9.500. Snedeker said that once Mallick vaulted for the first time tonight, she was confident that a good score would be posted.

“Her vault was beautiful,” Snedeker said. “The first one was great and the second one was nice and tight and she opened up great and stuck it.”

Audrey Warner finished third on the balance beam with a score of 9.125 and Zoe Zyvith placed second on the floor exercise with a score of 9.200 to help Montgomery build up the team total. They had four of the top six finishers in the All-Around competition, led by Mallick’s score of 36.075.

“We were a little edgy tonight; we weren’t as close to the zone as we could have been, there are things that they were just a little over anxious for,” Snedeker said.

But the top two in the All-Around finished in a tie, as Emily Shugan of Bridgewater-Raritan and Sarah Pallay of Hillsborough posted matching scores of 37.225 to walk away as co-champions.

Shugan won both the uneven bars (9.500) and balance beam (9.550) and Pallay won the floor exercise with a score of 9.550.

“I was really happy with my performance tonight, I just came in hoping to do my best, partly because the team is a little down with all the injuries we have right now. So I’m happy with how I did,” Pallay, the 2012 champion in the All-Around, said. “It feels really good to defend the title and honestly I was just looking to do the best I could do and if I defended it, great.”

Shugan came into the night only expecting to compete in the uneven bars due to a foot injury that hadn’t allowed her to take part in an All-Around competition all season, but after she went on the vault and beam, she figured she could just finish it out on the floor.

“Beam was a complete surprise, to even compete on that, so that was just an exciting time for me,” Shugan said. “I won bars last year so I wanted to defend that, but to be a co-champion, it’s surprising. I didn’t even intend to compete All-Around today, so it’s awesome to win this. I’ve never seen a tie like this, and even though I knew it’d be close, but I didn’t think I’d win.”

TEAM SCORES: 1. Montgomery 107.400; 2. Bridgewater-Raritan 107.300; 3. Hillsborough 106.850; 4. Somerville 103.550; 5. Watchung Hills 97.775; 6. Ridge 97.025.

ALL-AROUND: 1. Emily Shugan (Bridgewater-Raritan) 37.225; 1. Sarah Pallay (Hillsborough) 37.225; 3. Renee Mallick (Montgomery) 36.075; 4. Audrey Warner 35.800; 5. Zoe Zyvith (Montgomery) 35.225; 6. Jordan Ricca (Montgomery) 35.200.

VAULT: 1. Renee Mallick (Montgomery) 9.500; 2. Emily Shugan (Bridgewater-Raritan) 9.375; 3. Anne Meringolo (Watchung Hills) 9.225; 4. Sarah Pallay (Hillsborough) 9.200; 5. Lauren Cunningham (Watchung Hills) 9.100; 6. Brionna Hawkens (Somerville) 9.050.

UNEVEN BARS: 1. Emily Shugan (Bridgewater-Raritan) 9.500; 2. Natalie Onderko (Hillsborough) 9.225; 3. Sarah Pallay (Hillsborough) 9.000; 4. Renee Mallick (Montgomery) 8.800; 5. Kira Solt (Hillsborough) 8.775; 6. Anne Meringolo (Watchung Hills) 8.725.

BALANCE BEAM: 1. Emily Shugan (Bridgewater-Raritan) 9.550; 2. Sarah Pallay (Hillsborough) 9.475; 3. Audrey Warner (Montgomery) 9.125; 4. Brionna Hawkens (Somerville) 9.000; 5. Aylssa Fodera (Hillsborough) 8.900; 6. Grace Tutunjian (Hillsborough) 8.825.

FLOOR EXERCISE: 1. Sarah Pallay (Hillsborough) 9.550; 2. Zoe Zyvith (Montgomery) 9.200; 3. Brionna Hawkens (Somerville) 9.150; 4. Audrey Warner (Montgomery) 9.075; Jordan Ricca (Montgomery) 9.050; 6. Renee Mallick (Montgomery) 9.000.

GMC Red battle remains tight

As the calendar changes to October, one thing remains clear: the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Red Division remains as competitive as ever. East Brunswick, one of the conference’s two remaining unbeatens, sits atop the division standings, with serious contenders like Old Bridge, Monroe and South Brunswick lurking.

The Bears (8-0-1) have impressive non-division, road victories over Hun, Peddie and Randolph to go along with an unblemished conference record in the season’s first month. East Brunswick has seen 10 different players record at least one point so far this season, with senior Ellie DiLiberto and junior Sydney Rosa leading the way. DiLiberto leads the team with eight goals and Rosa has scored seven, while Kaitlin Roughan has three goals and four assists. But the most impressive part of East Brunswick’s success this season is that they’ve allowed just five goals in their nine contests, having pitched four shutouts, including two in a row.

One of East Brunswick’s divisional victories came on the road against a supremely talented Old Bridge squad on Sept. 26. But as of Tuesday, that is the lone loss for the Knights in 2013. Old Bridge won their first four games of the year, allowing just two goals in the process, including a 1-0 shutout over Bishop Ahr in their season opener, before the loss against East Brunswick. Alexis Suarez’s seven goals lead the team while Lauren Coletti has a pair of goals to go along with six assists in the season’s first month.

Monroe, the only squad to hang with East Brunswick for an entire match, has put together a nice resume inside the division so far, winning three of their six contests. Included in that run is a 1-1 tie against the Bears on Sept. 19, when Taylor Evanchik tied the game with less than five minutes remaining. Evanchik leads the Falcons with seven goals and two assists.

South Brunswick, a team on the rise, is starting to get hot at the right time. But, the Vikings have a tough week ahead of them, with a pair of road tests inside in the division against Woodbridge and Piscataway. Working in South Brunswick’s favor is the fact that they’ve beaten both of those schools already this season, taking down Woodbridge 4-1 and Piscataway 4-2. Both Brielle Errico and Julianna Franco have scored four goals for the Vikings in 2013 and they’re getting help from Cagnie Antczak (two goals, three assists).

Walking for their coach

This past Saturday, the South Plainfield soccer program walked as one in Jones Beach, NY to support their head coach, Danielle Chiera in the 5th annual Brain Aneurysm Walk for Awareness.

Chiera, who suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm six years ago that required multiple surgeries and procedures, stands today without any physical or mental disabilities after her terrible episode at the age of 23. The members of both the varsity and junior varsity squads all donated money to the cause and walked alongside their coach to lend support and raise awareness.

Practice pays off for South Brunswick

EDISON — As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect.

For the South Brunswick High School girls soccer team, the things they had been working on in practice leading into the season’s second month were showcased in a dominant 3-0 victory over Edison Tuesday afternoon.

Brielle Errico scored the game’s opening goal on a perfectly-placed through ball and nearly had a second goal when she hit the left post with a low line drive, two things the junior said that she and her teammates have been trying to get better at in practice.

“We were working on diagonals all week in practice and I saw that Taylor played a nice through ball and I ran into it, like we had practiced,” Errico said. “Once I had the ball, I saw that I was really close to the goalie so I knew I had to make a touch outside and I was able to hit it in.”

Taylor Brantely picked up the assist on Errico’s goal by sending the ball through a crowd in the middle of the field in the 9th minute. Five minutes later, Errico nearly had a second goal, but hit the post. She had worked the ball up the right wing and got enough clearance around an Edison defender to shoot a low, hard shot towards the post, but instead of the ball finding the twine, it clanged off and landed on the foot of Julianna Franco. Promptly, the sophomore tapped it home to put the Vikings up 2-0.

“I thought when I kicked it that it was going in,” Errico said. “I’m just glad that Julianna was able to tap it in.”

South Brunswick (4-4) held the majority of the possession throughout the game’s opening 40 minutes, connecting on passes and working the ball wide to avoid bunching up, something that head coach Beth Barrio noted was a point of emphasis in practice.

“I think that sometimes, we stress to the girls that it doesn’t have to be so pretty; they’re always trying to make that extra pass because they’re very unselfish players, but they’re trying to make that perfect ball to the perfect person at the perfect time,” Barrio said. “We’ve been stressing to them that they need to take the shot early and get the job done, no matter how pretty it is. So today, it was a bit of an opposite.”

Errico made multiple runs past Edison (4-4-1) defenders and could have had at least two more goals if not for some standout play from Eagles’ goalkeeper Kaitlin Marold.

The Vikings got an insurance goal in the 47th minute when Jenna Mastronardi popped home a goal from about 30 yards away, over the outstretched arms of Marold.

On a day where the ball was in the offensive half of the field for the majority of the contest, Barrio was proud of the way her defensive unit played in the few instances where they were pressured. As she said, it takes a whole team playing their best for the full 80 minutes to win.

“We are very happy with our defense game after game; they are warriors back there and they rarely get subbed out of the game. They communicate well and sometimes they get a little overshadowed because they aren’t forced to do a whole ton. To have a game like this is a nice boost for them,” Barrio said.

Chiefs turn things around

Piscataway's Danielle Grant and J.P. Stevens' Jennifer El-Fakir (15) on Monday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

Piscataway’s Danielle Grant and J.P. Stevens’ Jennifer El-Fakir (15) on Monday. Photo by: Ed Pagliarini

EDISON — Trailing by a goal late in the first half and facing a possible four-game losing streak, the Piscataway High School girls soccer team turned things around in time to gain a 2-1 victory over J.P. Stevens behind a Lela Allen goal and a Maia Williams penalty shot Monday afternoon.

Allen took a perfectly placed through ball off the foot of Danielle Grant and shrugged off a J.P. Stevens defender to tie the score just before halftime, giving the Chiefs the boost they needed to secure a road victory in the ever-challenging Greater Middlesex Conference Red Division.

“Danielle played very well today and it was a great ball to Lela,” head coach Jen Vroman said. “We were able to connect better today than we have most days so far this year and Lela did well; she was strong on the ball and had composure to put it away.”

With the score tied, the two teams played even soccer through most of the second half, but in the 65th minute things changed. Piscataway carried the ball down the right wing and eventually worked it into the box, where a foul was called in a crowd, awarding the Chiefs a penalty kick. Vroman didn’t hesistate to put Williams on the line, even though they haven’t worked on taking penalty shots much this season.

“(Williams) brings a lot of energy, so it was an easy decision to put her in there and we had 100 percent confidence that she was going to score,” Vroman said.

And score she did, blasting a shot into the back of the net to the left of J.P. Stevens goalkeeper Erin Shea. From there, Piscataway played keep-away, not allowing the Hawks to get a legitimate shot at the net for a tying goal.

But when the Hawks had looks at the Piscataway net, sophomore goalkeeper Jacqueline McEvoy thwarted their chances time after time. McEvoy made 10 save and came out from the end line to punch away several crosses.

“Jackie was incredible and she took command of the box for us today,” Vroman said.

J.P. Stevens got the game’s first goal when Karen Eng found herself with the ball inside the box in the 10th minute after the Hawks had worked the ball all the way downfield. Eng settled the ball to her right foot and blasted a shot over McEvoy’s outstretched arms for the goal.

Shea finished with five saves for J.P. Stevens. But in the end, it was Piscataway emerging with a victory that Vroman believes can propel her squad to go on a winning streak in the season’s second month.

“I think that this kind of play has been here all season, we just haven’t performed to our potential and today we came out and decided that we were tired of losing and we were going to win a game,” she said. “We’re so young and we have a lot of underclassmen, but we have the confidence after winning a game like this.”