CRANFORD, NJ - "Spectacular" was the word that resonated from the turf Saturday afternoon as the Mustangs defeated Union County College 5-3 in Region XIX women's soccer action.
Both teams were treated to special performances on both the attacking and defensive sides of the game but in the end Montgomery had a bit more firepower and stampeded to an important Region XIX victory.
Union opened the scoring in the 7th minute, converting as Catalina Lozano one-touched a cross off the inside of the post. The early advantage was short-lived however as Mustangs midfielder Marisa Christensen fed Julie Primavera a through ball right off the ensuing tap. Primavera beat the Union goalkeepers with the dribble and deposited a genius strike from an impossible angle into the side panel to even the score.
After Union pulled ahead 2-1 on a well-executed restart from the right flank, the Mustangs once again responded with immediacy as this time Primavera trailed a ball to Christensen who slammed the ball home from 20 yards out kissing the bottom of the crossbar in the process.
Tied at 2-2, Montgomery's defense began to control Union's penetration and when center back Erica Christensen played a long ball over the host's defense it was Primavera once again running down the feed and finding the back of the net for a lead her team would not relinquish.
Playing with three backs -- Lindsay Babst, Erica Christensen, and Alison Henning -- Montgomery stifled the Union attack despite challenging weather conditions. The backs consistently cleared the ball to forward Jordyn Ehrich and midfielders Diana Demarzio and Devon Beck, who subsequently pressured Union into critical mistakes.
In the 34th minute Demarzio accelerated down the left flank and was pulled down in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for the Mustangs. Marisa Christensen calmly roofed the shot for her second goal of the game and more importantly, a 4-2 lead.
Montgomery goalkeeper Shelby Poston made difficult saves look routine as the Mustangs took a two-goal advantage into halftime.
The Mustangs added to their lead in the second half with attacker Meghan Thompson streaking down the right side. Thompson drew the keeper and played a teasing ball to the far post to her teammate Chloe Carrow. Carrow outlegged the Union defenders and one-touched Thompson's feed into the right corner for her first career goal.
"Both Carrow and Thompson are not only new to the team but also new to the sport of soccer," sai Head Women's Soccer Coach Ben Winderman. "That goal was a special moment and their teammates celebrated with a display of joy that will not be forgotten."
Running for 90 minutes without the benefit of a single substitute, the Mustangs showed their true grit even though Lozano netted her second tally to draw Union to within two goals.
Following the game, Winderman spread praise around to all of his players,
"Shelby Poston was extraordinary in goal," said Winderman. "On a wet field she made save after save, not relinquishing a single rebound and distributing the ball efficiently. Between Shelby and her center back Erica Christensen the Mustangs cashed in on inspirational play relying on goals from Marisa Christensen and Julie Primavera as we have all season."
Winderman reiterated the idea that his team demonstrated heroic toughness and credited Beck and Demarzio with "covering ground all day on the flanks."
"If we can continue to learn from our mistakes and play with pure desire then this team can garner some attention. We create opportunities every game and we are maturing as a unit impressively. We tackle hard and counter-attack with speed and spirit.
"Primavera, Christensen and Ehrich are all capable finishers and now that Carrow has had a taste of the tally the Mustangs have become a multi-dimensional attack. We need to continue to reduce our mental errors and build faith in each other each game. Saturday's triumph will help in that process and MCCC has yet to play its best brand of futbol."
With Saturday's win the Mustangs evened their record at 4-4 and remain very much in the playoff picture. Next up: a home match Tuesday with Cumberland County College. Kickoff is set for 3:30 pm.
- By Bob Kent & Ben Winderman