Rowan Women’s Soccer Loses key Matchup to Montclair State as the NJAC Playoffs Draws Near

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Rowan's Bristol Pizzuto clearing the ball during a game earlier this season. Pizzuto would currently has 55 saves this season but would give up two goals in their game against Montclair. Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. - Multimedia Editor / Nick Feldman

The Rowan University women’s soccer team fell to Montclair State University on Saturday 2-1 in a key New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) matchup.

In the Prof’s final away contest of the season, they were put to the test early against the strong Red Hawk’s offense. 

In minute 15, forward Zoe Steck started the action for Montclair when she broke away and crossed the ball inside to midfielder Aileen Cahill who connected with the back of the net for her seventh goal of the season, making it 1-0 in favor of the Red Hawks. 

Just a few minutes later the Profs attempted to tie the match when a foul inside the box sent freshman back Emma DeMaise up to take the penalty kick for The Profs. Goalie Haley Martin dove and made the save for Montclair State. Up to that point, DeMaise was a perfect 3-3 on penalty kick attempts. 

“We missed a penalty kick, which could’ve given us a little bit of momentum,” Head Coach Scott Leacott said. “But we had some really good scoring opportunities that we didn’t put away which has kind of been our Achilles heel all year.”

The Profs were able to retaliate 32 minutes in when senior midfielder Aidan Sheehan sent a ball ahead to sophomore forward Cassidy McErlain, who was able to capitalize on the opportunity and score for the third time this season, tying the score up at one apiece. 

Heading into halftime, the score was all knotted up 1-1, with the Profs getting off four shots compared to the Red Hawks six. 

In the second half, Montclair State was able to start off strong, scoring in the minute 51 off of a header from back Catherine Carnevale that snuck past junior goalie Bristol Pizzuto. This score would stand as the Profs fell 2-1 to Montclair State in the NJAC battle. 

Although Profs goalkeeper Pizzuto let two slip through in this game, she has had a solid performance all season, totaling 55 saves in facing 121 shots and only allowing 12 goals, though she doesn’t just give herself all the credit.

“I would give all of my credit to the defense because they are extremely solid,” Pizzuto said. “I mean the amount of shots that they’ve stopped from happening, having those strong back four has made my job so easy.” 

Despite the loss on Saturday, Leacott believes his team, overall, still looked solid on the pitch. 

“I thought we played really well. I think we ended up with ten very good scoring opportunities when I looked back at the film, and they had three. And they happened to score two out of their three, and we scored one out of our ten,” Leacott said. “I have no problems with the way we played. I thought we played really well.” 

With this loss the Profs are now tied for second place in the NJAC with Montclair, both sitting at 6-2 in conference play, with TCNJ leading the conference and remaining undefeated in NJAC play.

With one final regular-season game for both teams, the Profs have to hope for a Montclair State loss to secure a first-round bye. Both will be playing on Wednesday night, with Rowan taking on Rutgers-Camden at home, while Montclair State faces Rutgers-Newark.

“[Wednesday] in our mind is a must-win, so that will give us the best opportunity if we do what we can on our side, and maybe we can get a bye in the first round of NJACs,” Pizzuto said. “But if not, it will just set us up. We can’t lose any more games. We really need to step on the gas and get things going.”

If both teams come out victorious, the Red Hawks will have the tiebreaker, pushing them ahead of The Profs for playoffs. This means Rowan will be playing in the first round of the NJAC tournament on Saturday.

“It’s something where you need to go into the [NJAC] tournament on a high note, and we know they’re [Rutgers-Camden] going to come hard because they’re fighting for their lives in the NJAC tournament right now,” Leacott said. “So, we know they’re going to come in hard. We’ve got to play exactly how we’re supposed to. If we do that, yeah, we should get a good result.”  

The Profs would end up defeating Rutgers-Newark on Wednesday night 3-2.

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