JERSEY CITY–New Jersey City University junior forward JULIA CASERES (Union) netted her fourth hat trick of the season and 10th in two seasons as a Gothic Knight to become the all-time, all-genders goals and points scoring leader in the 52-year history of the New Jersey Athletic Conference and the NJCU defense posted its second consecutive shutout as the Knights established a new single-season record for victories with a 4-0 blanking of Neumann University, in a non-conference regular season finale on Thursday at the Robert L. McNulty Memorial Soccer Field.
One day after qualifying for the NJAC Tournament for the first time in program history, junior goalkeeper LAURA ROBINSON (Edison) made four saves as she notched her fifth shutout of the season and the team’s sixth and NJCU’s all-time leading scorer, junior JENNIFER ALBUJA (Union City, NJ/Hoboken), continued to play tremendously in the back since being converted into a sweeper this month, as she anchored a defense that allowed just four shots on goal.
With the NJAC Tournament tune-up win, NJCU improves to 14-6 overall, surpassing the single-season record for victories (13) achieved just last season. NJCU has won two straight and five of its last six overall. Meanwhile NJCU is 9-1 at home this season and has stood victorious in 11 of its last 12 and 18 of 21 home games.
Neumann, which has qualified for its conference tournament—the Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC)—for the first time in its program history, suffers its third straight loss and drops to 6-9-1 overall. It was the first ever meeting between NJCU and Neumann; the Gothic Knights are 7-9 all-time against current members of the CSAC.
Caseres scored the first three goals of the game in the 7th, 54th and 64th minutes, before leaving the contest with just 46 minutes played. She scored her 23rd, 24th and 25th goals of the season and increased her career totals to 77 goals and 185 points in just three seasons and 62 games (2008 at Rutgers-Newark, 2009-10 at NJCU). Her three goals and six points eclipses the NJAC all-genders record of 74 goals and 184 points by former Kean University star and one-time NJCU assistant men’s soccer coach Fred Guiran from 1990-92.
Sophomore forward GABRIELLE CLARKE (Edison, NJ/J.P. Stevens) collected her third goal of the season in the 89th minute to cap the scoring.
Junior center midfielder KATLIN VARGO (Edison, NJ/Union Catholic), freshman midfielder ALEXIS FREES (Linden, NJ/Linden) and junior defender ERICA BUONACQUISTA (Aberdeen, NJ/Bayonne) each contributed assists.
NJCU outshot Neumann, 26-14. Sophomore forward ASHLEY CUNHA (Edison, NJ/Edison) had a game-high six shots, Caseres added five (three on goal), and sophomore midfielder CHELSEA SPETHMANN (Wood-Ridge, NJ/Hasbrouck Heights-Wood Ridge) added four shots (two on goal).
Junior defender MARGIE ALFANO (Randolph, NJ/West Orange) played a full 90 minutes of relentless defense to aid in the shutout.
Neumann used two keepers. Freshman Annika Dow (Belvidere, NJ/Belvidere) made three saves and allowed one first-half goal. In the second half, junior Brittany Russ (Geneva, NY/Marcus Whitman) had two saves with three goals against. The Knights also had one team save by freshman defender Alyson Hop (Levittown, PA/Archbishop Wood). Sophomore forward Olivia Pryzbylkowski (Conestoga, PA/Penn Manor) had a team-high four shots.
NJCU dominated possession throughout the contest and wasted no time seizing the lead. The Knights had an 8-1 advantage in corner kicks and claimed a 1-0 lead at 6:56 of the opening half. Vargo, who chipped in her fourth assist of the year, connected a perfect corner kick from the left endline into the box where Caseres pinpointed a header down the center of the target.
It was her seventh game-winning goal of the season, breaking the single-season school record of six that Albuja set in 2008 and Caseres equaled last year.
NJCU had a 15-8 edge in first half shots and nearly took a 2-0 lead at 11:30. After an NJCU corner, Frees attempted a shot that Hop cleared off the line along the right post.
Neumann’s best scoring opportunity of the first half came at 20:35. Robinson dove to stop a long shot into the box which likely would have sailed wide, and freshman midfielder Jordyn Agresta (Williamstown, NJ/Williamstown) hit the left post with the rebound. At 27:16, Dow kept the deficit at one when she made a great diving, horizontal stop of a blast by Spethmann. Robinson made a save of a Neumann header at 40:06 before NJCU headed to the intermission leading, 1-0.
In the second half, Caseres proved too much to stop for Neumann. At 53:53, Frees, who notched her third assist of the season, slipped a thru ball onto the left wing. Caseres beat the visiting defender to the far post before she tucked a shot from 12 yards out inside the left pipe.
At 63:17, Caseres made history. On an unassisted play, she beat two defenders on the left wing, dribbled to the goal, parallel to the endline, and uncorked a shot into the top right corner. With her 25th goal and 60th points of the season, she not only broke the NJAC’s all-genders scoring records, but also registered just the third 25-goal or 60-point seasons in school history. Caseres set the single-season program record with 73 points (30 goals, 13 assists) in 2009′; Albuja was the first to both plateaus when she scored a school record 32 goals and had 69 points in 2008.
Clarke wrapped up the offensive performance for NJCU at 88:51. Buonacquista, who was tackled hard on the play, delivered a long pass from midfield, creating a breakaway on the left wing, before Clarke buried a shot into the right of the target. The assist was Buonacquista’s first of the year.
Neumann’s only dangerous scoring chance in the second half occurred at 86:05 on an odd pin-ball type play. After Robinson stopped a shot in the box, Agresta’s rebound chance would have been well left of the goal. But the shot caught the back of an NJCU defender and caromed towards the net from just five yards away, forcing Robinson to rely on her reflexes to preserve the shutout.
NJCU, the fifth seed in the NJAC Tournament, will travel to Pomona, NJ on Saturday, October 30 at 1 p.m. to challenge fourth-seeded Richard Stockton College in the NJAC Quarterfinals. The Ospreys won the initial meeting on October 9, 5-2. Neumann opens the CSAC Quarterfinals on Monday, November 1 at 2 p.m. against Centenary College in Hackettstown, NJ.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!