Montclair State University’s women’s soccer team shut out The College of Staten Island Sunday 2-0, the Red Hawks’ second win in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) this year.
The weekend started off well with a 3-1 win over Rutgers-Camden. Sophomore striker Emily Beenders scored two goals, her fifth and sixth of the season, while Maddy McClelland added her fourth goal of the year in a route of the Rutgers-Camden Scarlet Raptors.
McClelland and Beenders have stepped up in the absence of strikers Tyler Madison and Melanie Cunha, who were off to a great start before injuries plagued the freshman phenom and the experienced senior leader.
Sophomore Julia Kelly touched on how the team has dealt with three of their starting players falling to injuries.
“We have a lot of injuries with our older girls. Our team is young right now — so it’s [about] putting people into new positions and working it out as a team.”
The Red Hawks responded forcefully after a 0-4 loss at home to Stevens last Wednesday. In the past two seasons, only The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) has defeated the Red Hawks like that—a team that, last year, went 7-0-0 undefeated in the NJAC.
The Red Hawks are beginning to show that they love what they do and desire to be the best soccer team they can be this year, no matter how difficult things become.
After losing two leaders on offense; Cunha and Madison before the game last Wednesday, the Red Hawks injury list consisted of two key players on offense and senior defender and co-captain Heather Sootkoos.
One player that has really brought her game to a new level is junior midfielder, Michaela Knoblock. Knoblock has opened up the field for her teammates with her speed and instinctive play on offense.
Describing what the Red Hawks need to keep doing well, sophomore Julia Kelly said, “We need to keep the high-energy going and keep the ball on the ground.”
“We’re very dangerous when we’re playing on the ground, like when Michaela [Knoblock] is getting crosses and playing well on set-pieces.”
Knoblock’s five assists are the best on the team this year and possibly her personal best was a pullback to Beenders on Saturday, who powered the ball ahead in what was the winning goal.
The Red Hawks have weathered the storm on the injury front and have won their first two conference games.
“Our record isn’t great right now, but coaching is about keeping everything in perspective,” said assistant coach Sullivan. “It’s just one game and we have to encourage the girls to approach it like that.”
Assistant coach Mignone said, “I think it’s important to keep everybody on the same page, because that keeps the team well-balanced and energized.”
The real test will come when the Kean University Cougars host the Red Hawks in a major test for the Montclair State side, which is still without two starters on offense and one on defense.