Coming off of a disappointing 1-0 shutout loss to No. 6 Vassar College, the Montclair State University field hockey team had a lot to prove coming into a tough matchup with the Gwynedd Mercy University Griffins.
“Today was about proving ourselves, and we wanted to do that via winning by multiple goals today,” Elizabeth Cimilluca, a junior forward and midfielder, said.
This was not necessarily the case, as the Red Hawks would need a late score from Cimilluca to secure a 3-2 win over the Griffins on a humid Saturday afternoon at Sprague Field.
The Red Hawks quickly got on the board in the 7:18 minute mark of the first quarter, as junior forward and midfielder Yael Yonah scored her first goal of the season off a beautiful pass from Cimilluca.
However, the real story of the first half was Montclair State’s defense, as they pitched a shutout in the first half, despite seven shots and four penalty corners by the Griffins. The Red Hawks star senior goalkeeper Nicole Andriani was outstanding in the first half, as she recorded five saves despite consistent offensive pressure by Gwynedd Mercy.
The second half proved to be much more eventful than the first, and the Red Hawks defense took a huge step back as the Griffins began to convert on penalty corners. In the 36:36 minute in the third quarter, junior Griffins attacker Allison Campbell would finally get a shot past Andriani as her goal would tie the game at 1-1.
Montclair State quickly bounced back in the 40:15 mark in the third quarter, as senior forward and midfielder Maddie Freeman would catch the Griffins defense off guard. Freeman made a great assist to sophomore forward and midfielder Katelyn Osterlind, as Osterlind scored to make a 2-1 game.
The Griffins wasted no time tying the game. Nine seconds after Osterlind’s goal, Gwynedd Mercy would slice through the Red Hawk defense easily, as senior attacker Tori Sherwood made it a 2-2 game with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Red Hawks head coach Eileen O’Reilly believes that bad communications on both sides of the ball were at fault for the Red Hawks breaking down defensively.
“[Communication issues] have been a consistent pattern for us throughout the season,” O’Reilly said. “This is the biggest thing that we have to improve on moving forward.”
Despite these issues on the defensive end, Cimilluca would once again make a huge play as she scored a late goal. At the 52:42 mark in the fourth quarter, she gave the Red Hawks a 3-2 lead. Montclair State would play solid defense for the last seven minutes of the quarter to hold off the Griffins in what was a thrilling game.
Although the Red Hawks created multiple opportunities for themselves throughout the game via penalty corners, coach O’Reilly believes her team failed to convert on many of these opportunities throughout the game.
“We have to start scoring on balls that are near the post, and we preach that day in and day out,” O’Reilly said.
Despite a sloppy second half for the Red Hawks, the team has proven they can win under pressure and can reverse momentum at any given time. This will be important as they go into New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) play later in the season.
“I think we love pressure, and it really makes us play better,” Cimilluca said. “We are excited for NJAC play because we can finally show the conference and the NCAA what we are made of.”