By Maximillian C. Burgos | Staff Writer
EWING — The College of New Jersey Lions women’s soccer team sours to 4-0 on the season after a tightly contented game at home that went into overtime on Wednesday night against the John Hopkins University Blue Jays. Senior forward Christine Levering was the hero of the night, scoring the winning-goal four minutes into overtime, assisted by sophomore Ally DeRiggi, giving the Lions a 1-0 win at Lions Stadium.
The entire night was a fierce defensive struggle that came to a head in spectacular fashion.
Coming into the game, neither teams had conceded a loss in the season. The Lions were ranked fifth by United Soccer Coaches and the Blue Jays were ranked ninth. The Lions knew coming into this game that this would be their first real test of the season and the game would not be won in an easy fashion.
Levering commented on her thoughts coming into the game.
“John Hopkins is always a great team,” she explained. “So every we come out knowing it’ll be one of those games that comes out to who wants it more.”
Both teams battled for every opportunity in the game. In the first minute, the Lions forwards pushed deep into Blue Jay territory and almost created a nice scoring opportunity with their selfless passing of the ball, but the Blue Jays showed them early on that nothing would come easy as they easily thwarted the attempt.
Possession in the first half was always tightly contested. Players from each team battled for position and gave no ground up easily. For much of the first half, the teams barely left the middle of the field as both defenses clamped down and shutout any kind of offensive initiative.
The Blue Jays were the first to strike though. Sophomore midfielder Carly Lupton-Smith penetrated the Lions defense just enough to get a decent shot on goal. The Lions’ goalkeeper Sophomore Nicole DiPasquale made short work of the attempt and saved it.
As the first half dredged on, the defenses of both teams allowed minimal scoring efforts. Many of the Lions’ attempts to score were thwarted before they had a chance to truly develop into anything decent. The Blue Jays defense truly put on the pressure and made it hard for the Lions’ to gain any ground.
In the second half, the Lions’ offense started to pick up and better chances started to form. Lions’ senior forward Hannah Richman took a shot on goal that arc beautifully to the left upper shelf of the goal.
Fans practically sat at the edges of their seats as the ball seemed to be in the air forever. In a master gesture of defense, the Blue Jays goalie senior Bess Kitzmiller somehow managed to punch the ball out while falling backwards. The crowd let out a collective sigh of frustration.
Lions’ senior midfielder Elizabeth Thoresen also had a beautiful breakaway that pierced straight through the Blue Jay defense just minutes after the Kitzmiller made her miracle save. Thoresen masterfully created a chance for a score but sadly gave too much power in her kick as the ball sailed high and harmlessly over the net.
With 26 minutes left in the regulation, the Lions failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity. After a Lions’ midfielder shot the ball with conviction, the goalkeeper made a diving save that left her out of position. A Lions player was open for a shot, but a Blue Jay defender desperately dispossessed her and cleared the ball.
Coming into overtime, the Lions had already taken 12+ shots, surely tiring the Blue Jay defense. Kitzmiller had 5 saves and was looking in top form. The Blue Jay defense managed to thwart all scoring attempts but, that was soon to change.
The Lions, the minutes into overtime went on an all or nothing drive down field. DeRiggi split Blue Jay defenders with a perfect pass to Levering who drive deeper into the box and absolutely ripped a rocket into the net. Players and fans alike all cheered their hearts out as the Blue Jays hung their heads in shame.
The Lions managed 22 shots on the night, 8 of which were on goal. Kitzmiller had a solid night with 7 saves, but it was simply not enough to stop the Lions relentless second half and overtime attack.
Levering still in awe of her win commented that scoring the winning goal felt ‘amazing’ and the overall win for her fifth ranked Lions.
“They’re (the Blue Jays) always a good fight,” she explained in a very even and calm voice. “We knew coming in that it was going to be a hard-physical game. We just have to take advantage of opportunities and whoever does that more comes out on top. Every year it’s always a tough one. I mean this was a huge test for us and a major confidence boast moving forward knowing we can compete with the top teams in the country.”
Joe Russo, the Lions head coach, also had something to say after the sweet victory for the Lions. His overall record extends to an impressive 486-62-40 as his team wins their fourth straight game this season.
“I thought we exceptional at the back. I thought the backline was good. I told them (the Lions) at half time to just catch their breath. The game was just so frenetic and 900 miles an hour, they just had to settle down and not spray the ball wide.”
When asked what he thought about this win he was businesslike, “This one is done and over with. Let’s move on.”
After four games, the Lions still have no conceded a goal. They have now outscored opponents 11-0 on the season. Their next game is on Saturday, Sept. 16th, at William Patterson University. The game has a 5:30 p.m. start. The Lions have left this sweet victory behind them and are looking forward to William Paterson.
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