Kylie Prendergast’s hat trick in the second half was the spark that the Montclair State University women’s soccer team needed against the Pioneers of William Paterson University after a frustrating first half.
The freshman forward received a pass from senior defender Kerri Driscoll and put it into the top right corner for her first of the night a little under two minutes into the second frame and didn’t look back. She joins junior midfielder Aileen Cahill as the only pair to record multiple hat tricks this year.
Senior goalkeeper Haley Martin describes Prendergast and the relief of her first tally.
“She’s magic on the ball,” Martin said. “It’s really exciting to watch her play and there’s always a sense of that weight being lifted. Now we can play our style confidently and hold our breath for the next play.”
Head coach Patrick Naughter also shines the spotlight on the fifth leading scorer in the conference.
“She’s a good player, a great kid and has been working really hard,” Naughter said.
Driscoll, who had a special assist on a special night honoring her and the seven other senior players, commended her teammate’s emotions when they were struggling to find the back of the net.
“We knew we had to step it up, telling each other to relax, score big goals and keep playing hard,” Driscoll said. “I have so much faith in my forwards and I knew if I give it to them, I knew they’ll be able to finish it off.”
Naughter wasn’t shy about giving the Pioneers credit, who held the Red Hawks scoreless for 47 minutes.
“The Pioneers are super well coached, they work their tail off, we knew it was going to be a grind,” Naughter said. “I thought we did very well, our work ethic was good, our focus was there but it was so hard to score.”
Martin made a similar sentiment.
“William Paterson is a very dangerous team in transition, when we have the ball, we’re looking to make the field as big as we can,” Martin adds. “We weren’t as quick as we hoped to be but the defense was strong and kept the ball out of the net.”
The program honored the seniors on the team before the game, a group that coach Naughter described as “loyal.” Those players were on the Spring 2021 New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship team where all sports played during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“A lot of credit goes to our seniors,” Naughter said. “I’m very proud of this group and what they’ve accomplished in their four years. They created a culture here where it’s not about how old you are, it’s about if you can play.”
Driscoll reflects on the heartwarming game.
“It was so special,” Driscoll said. “I’m so proud of every single senior on this team and I think they’ve done a really good job of welcoming the new girls on the team and the camaraderie has been awesome because of that.”
The “State Train” keeps rolling, stopping each time before the NJAC Tournament starts.
“We’re definitely focusing on the present right now, game by game, not looking too far into the future and that’s when you get caught sleeping,” Martin said. “The NJAC is a very competitive conference.”
The team turns its attention to Rutgers University-Camden and Kean University to close it out before the postseason. Rowan University and The College of New Jersey, who were tied with the Red Hawks for first in the conference prior to the matchup, played each other last night and tied. This put the Red Hawks in second place heading into their next couple of games.
“There’s no days off in the NJAC, there’s no slip-ups, we just gotta keep going,” Naughter said.