JERSEY CITY– Junior goalkeeper LAURA ROBINSON (Edison, NJ/Edison) set a school record for saves in a victory with 16, including a remarkable diving stop and catch of a penalty kick and sophomore midfielder CHELSEA SPETHMANN (Wood-Ridge, NJ/Hasbrouck Heights-Wood Ridge) collected the game-winning goal and an assist as New Jersey City University defeated Montclair State University for the first time since 1994, posting a critical 3-1 New Jersey Athletic Conference victory on Saturday afternoon at the Robert L. McNulty Memorial Soccer Field.
NJCU earns three crucial points in the league standings and can clinch its first-ever NJAC Tournament berth with a win in one of its final two conference games—October 23 against #3 The College of New Jersey or October 27 at Rutgers University-Camden.
NJCU improves to 10-5 overall and 3-4 in the conference, reaching double figures in wins for the second consecutive season—the only two 10+ win seasons in the 18-year history of the program. The Gothic Knights defeat Montclair State (5-6-3, 2-4-1) for the first time since a 3-2 decision at home on October 6, 1994. MSU, which outshot NJCU, 25-22, leads the all-time series, 15-2.
NJCU improved to 6-0 at home this season and have won nine consecutive home contests at 16 of its last 18.
The loss placed the Red Hawks’ streak of 11 consecutive NJAC Tournament appearances since the inception of the event in 1999 in danger with Richard Stockton College (October 23) and Ramapo College (October 27, away) remaining.
Junior forward JULIA CASERES (Union, NJ/Union) netted a game-tying goal early in the second half. It was her 20th marker of the season and the 72nd of her three-year career. Already the all-time leading scorer in NJAC women’s history, she is now tied for second among all-genders in league history. Rookie midfielder ALEXIS FREES (Linden, NJ/Linden) added a late insurance goal—her second marker in as many games—off a corner kick by junior center midfielder KATLIN VARGO (Edison, NJ/Union Catholic).
Junior JENNIFER ALBUJA (Union City, NJ/Hoboken)—a 64-goal career scorer, made her first collegiate start at sweeper, and along with junior defenders ERICA BUONACQUISTA (Aberdeen, NJ/Bayonne) and NICOLE SARICA (Linden, NJ/Linden) played 90 minutes in the back to preserve the lead.
Robinson, who had 13 of her career-high 16 saves in the second half when MSU outshot NJCU, 18-10, nearly doubled her previous career best of nine saves.
Montclair State senior midfielder Katie Minervini (Oceanport, NJ/Shore Regional) scored the Red Hawk’s lone goal in the 12th minute. Sophomore goalkeeper Marisa Zayac (Jackson, NJ/Jackson Memorial) stopped six shots in defeat. MSU sophomore forward Rachel Senyszyn (Succasunna, NJ/Roxbury) had a game-high eight shots, including six on goal.
In the first half, NJCU outshot Montclair, 12-7. Senyszyn made two bids for goals in a span of 28 seconds in the first six minutes, but Robinson stopped one shot from 10 yards out near the left post before thwarting a breakaway chance in the box at 5:19.
Late in the seventh minute, NJCU appeared to have taken a 1-0 lead when Caseres, who had six shots in the game (three on goal), headed home a free kick by Vargo but was whistled for offsides. She had another quality header at 9:51.
Montclair would be the first to tally a marker in the game. After a throw-in from the right sideline into the box, NJCU’s defense cleared the ball. But Minervini settled the ball a step inside the 18, and pounded a shot into the left side of the target at 11:08 for her fourth goal of the season. MSU would lead 1-0 at the half.
Vargo had a dangerous shot sail high for NJCU at the 17:56 mark of the half. Later, Sarica made a clear in the box at 26:43 when MSU was seeking a second goal. Zayac made saves of shots by Frees (35:54) and sophomore forward ASHLEY CUNHA (Edison, NJ/Edison) (40:10) to keep the Knights off the board in the half.
Less than three minutes into the second half, NJCU got the equalizer. Spethmann, known for her long throw-ins, celebrated her grandfather’s 70th birthday by firing a ball a few yards from the left post. There, Caseres unleashed a wicked header, snapping her frame on a 90-degree angle to redirect the ball inside the post at 47:59, tying the game 1-1. The assist was Spethmann’s team-best seventh of the year.
Robinson kept the game tied when she stopped MSU freshman forward Allison Wacker (Stockholm, NJ/Wallkill Valley Regional) on a breakaway chance in the 52nd minute and Robinson caught a Senyszyn on the right post in the 56th minute.
At 60:07, Minervini lofted a high shot from about 40 yards into the windy conditions caused by this weekend’s Nor’easter, forcing Robinson to leap and tip the chance up and off the crossbar. She kept the game even in the 62nd minute when she smothered back-to-back chances by Senyszyn in a span of five seconds.
Finally, Spethmann’s second goal of the season put NJCU in front to stay. After a cross by Frees, she attempted a shot that was blocked. Seconds later at 66:26, Spethmann collected her own rebound, and tucked a shot through several defenders and a diving Zayac, and the Knights claimed a 2-1 lead.
Robinson continued to make important saves as Montclair pressed, stopping Senyszyn at 68:08 and a shot by freshman forward Amanda Pero (Old Bridge, NJ/Old Bridge) late in the 69th minute.
At 79:48, NJCU extended the lead to 3-1. Vargo, who collected her third assist of the season, aired a cross into the top of the box where Frees pinpointed a perfect header into the upper left corner of the target.
After a yellow card in the box by NJCU less than a minute later, Montclair junior midfielder Christina DeMartinis (Kinnelon, NJ/Kinnelon) was awarded a penalty kick at 80:44. Robinson read the play perfectly, diving towards the left post, tipping the ball up and off the crossbar. Before the loose ball could fall into the net, she caught the rebound while lying on her back on the goal line. Perhaps the defensive play of the year for NJCU, it maintained the Knights’ two-goal lead and the Red Hawks were limited to only one more shot in the final nine minutes of the contest.
NJCU looks for win #11 when it hosts Polytechnic Institute of New York University on Monday, October 18 at 4:30 p.m. in a non-conference game. Montclair is right back on the pitch on October 17 when it hosts Centenary College in a 2 p.m. non-league game.
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