JERSEY CITY– Junior center midfielder ERICA BUONACQUISTA (Aberdeen, NJ/Bayonne) tied the game in the 55th minute before junior forward JULIA CASERES (Union, NJ/Union) netted the game-winner off a scintillating chip by rookie midfielder ALEXIS FREES (Linden, NJ/Linden) as New Jersey City University defeated Ramapo College in women’s soccer for the first time since 1994, staked a 2-1 victory in a New Jersey Athletic Conference game on Wednesday at the Robert L. McNulty Memorial Soccer Field. NJCU outshot the Roadrunners, 34-11, and had 21 of the first 22 shots in the contest.
NJCU improves to 6-2 overall and 1-1 in the NJAC, by winning for the fifth time in six games. Ramapo falls to 3-5 (0-2 NJAC). It was NJCU’s first victory over the Roadrunners since a 3-2 decision on September 21, 1994. RCNJ leads the all-time series, 15-2-1. The Knights are 4-0 at home this season and have won 13 of its last 15 games in Jersey City.
Ramapo’s first shot of the game was its only goal as freshman forward Katie Popowych (Aberdeen, NJ/Mater Dei) converted a pass from senior forward Kimberly Bruno (Middletown, NJ/Middletown South) in the 23rd minute.
Junior goalkeeper LAURA ROBINSON (Edison, NJ/Edison) registered seven saves to preserve the victory, as rookie sweeper CAITLIN BOURQUE (Browns Mills, NJ/Pemberton) limited Ramapo’s opportunities, with defensive pressure contributed by sophomore defenders AMANDA SPETHMANN and CHELSEA SPETHMANN (Wood-Ridge, NJ/Hasbrouck Heights-Wood Ridge).
Ramapo junior keeper Alyssa Krall (Toms River, NJ/Toms River East) made eight saves under heavy pressure. RCNJ also had one team save.
Caseres started the game at center midfield, before finishing with a game-high 10 shots (three on goal). Sophomore forward/midfielder ASHLEY CUNHA (Edison, NJ/Edison) had eight shots (two on goal) and junior forward JENNIFER ALBUJA (Union City, NJ/Hoboken) tallied six more attempts.
NJCU dominated the first half, outshooting Ramapo 15-1 in the period, but trailed 1-0 at the break. Albuja had three solid scoring chances in the opening 14 minutes. Just 33 seconds into the game, she missed wide on a breakaway chance, nearly tucked an Amanda Spethmann throw-in into the net at 6:27, and had a header blocked at 13:27. Caseres narrowly missed a shot off a feed from the left endline at 15:47.
Ramapo’s first shot of the game came at 22:44 on a broken play. Bruno dribbled up the left wing in a 2-on-2 and dished a thru ball into the box. Robinson dove to cut it off but misjudged it, sliding too early. That left Popowych all alone for an easy touch into the empty net. Her first collegiate goal made it 1-0.
NJCU nearly tied it at 24:38 when Cunha’s shot from the right wing clashed off the crossbar. Buonacquista’s shot at 32:54 was cleared away with a team save by Ramapo’s backs.
The Knights kept shooting and after racking up the first six shots of the second period, finally scored when Buonacquista lofted a shot from the deep right wing over a leaping 5-foot-8 Krall, and just beneath the crossbar, tying the game at 54:11.
From there, both keepers made several key stops to keep the game even at 1-1. Cunha ripped a straight-on shot at 57:25 that Krall leaped and tipped over the bar. Robinson had a great reaction tip save of her own from the near endline at 60:42 off a hard shot from freshman midfielder Sarah Barnes (Sayreville, NJ/Sayreville War Memorial).
With 11:07 left in regulation, Ramapo appeared to have a breakaway chance before Bourque sprinted into the box to break up the opportunity. Cunha nearly cashed in on a shot in the box at 82:32 but was high. Popowych’s attempt at a second goal was knocked away with a great tip stop by Robinson at 83:49 and Robinson recorded perhaps her best save as a Gothic Knight at 84:17 when she made an incredible sprawling play to thwart a shot from freshman defender Susan Hayes (Wayne, NJ/Wayne Valley).
Finally, with exactly three minutes remaining, the Knights got the go-ahead marker they sought. Junior midfielder MARGIE ALFANO (Randolph, NJ/West Orange) beat a defender with her speed and dribbling on the right sideline and aired a cross to the left of the box. There, Frees, making her first collegiate start, settled the ball and deaked a defender, drawing Krall off her line. Frees turned back to the target, chipped a ball in the air to Caseres, who headed home her NCAA Division III leading 15th goal and 33rd point of the season at 87:00. The assist was the first of Frees’ career.
Meanwhile, Caseres scored for the seventh time in eight games this season and netted her third game-winning goal to move into a share of third place in NJAC history with 158 career points and 67 goals. Robinson made two saves in the final three minutes to seal the win.
NJCU will visit Glassboro, NJ on Saturday, September 25 at 7 p.m. when the Knights challenge #8 ranked Rowan University in an NJAC contest. Ramapo visits Rutgers-Newark at the same time.
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