Following a huge 17-6 win against Stockton University on April 23, the Red Hawks earned their third straight win on April 26 when they defeated New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rival Kean University 8-7 in comeback fashion on senior night.
The game did not start great for the Red Hawks. In the fourth minute of action, the Cougars struck first with a goal by freshman attacker Morgan Graham, giving Kean a quick 1-0 lead.
The Red Hawks’ defense struggled early, as they were outshot by the Cougars 5-0 in the first seven minutes of play. In the seventh minute, Red Hawks senior midfielder and captain Kasey Maguire punched in her first goal of the game and 100th point of her career to tie the game.
“It felt good to get [my 100th point] out of the way. I actually didn’t know I was getting it until [Francesca] Verrone, one of the juniors, told me,” said Maguire. “It was really exciting, because it was unexpected.”
The Cougars’ offense emerged as they scored five unanswered goals in four minutes thanks to Graham’s second goal of the game. Her goal was followed by goals from junior attacker Danielle Tomminelli, senior midfielder Jordan Blanda, sophomore midfielder Brittany Ballack and sophomore attacker Emily Stasuk. The Cougars had momentum in their grasp as they took a commanding 6-1 lead over the Red Hawks with 13 minutes left in the half.
Montclair State Head Coach Nicol Parcelluzzi credits Kean for taking advantage of an emotional Red Hawks team in the first half, following their senior night ceremony with dominating defense.
“[Kean] is a strong team, and I think they just came out on fire — their defense was great,” said Parcelluzzi.
Montclair State senior goalkeeper Rebecca Myers took 13 shots on net in the first half. Myers felt that the Red Hawks were inconsistent in the first half, but that the inconsistency is what made the team fight back.
“We don’t give up and we will keep pushing forward,” said Myers. “We got in a little bit of a hole, and together, we didn’t put our heads down, and we kept fighting back.”
With Montclair State in trouble, the Red Hawks responded when junior attacker Aviana Paraggio struck her first goal of the contest, and the deficit was cut to 6-2 with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Red Hawks would finally cut the deficit in half with five minutes of action left in the first half when Maguire punched in her second goal of the night. Still, Montclair State went into the locker room down 6-3 at halftime.
The Cougars were dominant in the first half, as they outshot Montclair State 12-3 in the first 15 minutes and 15-10 in the second half. Despite the Red Hawks forcing 12 turnovers, their offense was not able to capitalize due to key defensive efforts by the Cougars.
Maguire explained that the rivalry between and Montclair State and Kean gave her the advantage to keep fighting against the Cougars in the second half.
“We have always been head-to-head with [Kean] and it’s always a dirty game,” said Maguire. “I think that gave us the push to say, ‘this is not happening on our field, not on senior night,’ and I think that’s what gave us our drive.”
The Red Hawks needed to keep the momentum going into the second half or they would be in jeopardy. The first nine minutes of the second half went scoreless before Parcelluzzi called a timeout for Montclair State to try and rally the players together.
“I basically told them to look at the clock. ‘This is the time to get it done,’” said Parcelluzzi. “We drew out a game plan, and getting the draw controls were huge.”
Kean senior attacker Sam Gnapp ended the 13-minute scoreless streak with a goal, putting the Cougars up 7-3 with 17:50 remaining in the contest. The Red Hawks would respond one minute later when Maguire scored her third goal of the contest off a free position shot, and the Red Hawks once again faced a three-goal deficit at 7-4.
Montclair State continued to bring the fight to Kean with 13:23 remaining when sophomore midfielder Chelsea Orban scored a goal to cut the deficit to 7-5.
As the clock started to tick into the final 10 minutes of the game, fans began to witness the same story they had seen all season — the Red Hawks rallying late. With 11:15 remaining, Maguire shot her fourth goal of the contest, and the Red Hawks found themselves down by one, with the score 7-6.
It was anything but over for Montclair State, as the pressure was on the Cougars following the Red Hawks’ third straight goal in five minutes.
With 10:04 left in the game, Montclair State junior midfielder Francesca Verrone, the team’s leading scorer, found herself with a free position shot. However, her scoring attempt was unsuccessful after a big save by Kean sophomore goalkeeper Nikki Apostolopoulos, as she was able to stop the bleeding for the Cougars momentarily.
With 7:43 remaining in the contest, Orban scored the Red Hawks’ fourth straight goal of the half and her second of the night. In a span of nine minutes, the Red Hawks came all the way back to tie the game at seven.
For the next three minutes, the Cougars and Red Hawks ran up and down the field trading shots on net as both teams tried to gain momentum in the final minutes.
With two minutes remaining, Orban gave the Red Hawks their first lead of the contest with her third goal of the game and the Red Hawks’ fifth straight goal of the half to put the Red Hawks in front 8-7.
In the final two minutes, the Cougars fought their way back into Red Hawk territory, but a big save by Myers helped seal the game for the Red Hawks as they overcame a four-goal deficit to defeat the Cougars 8-7 on their senior night.
Myers explained that one of the key components to the victory was Maguire’s ability to score on command. Myers felt like the comeback would not have been complete without her four goals firing up the team.
“When you need [Maguire] to come out and score, she will,” said Myers. “Throughout the game, I knew Kasey was going to be the reason we won this game.”
The Red Hawks’ offense emerged in a big way as they outshot Kean 10-4 in the second half, and their defense forced 18 turnovers overall.
With their most recent win, the Red Hawks have a record of 10-5 on the season and 3-2 in the conference. The Red Hawks will look to wrap up the regular season with their fourth straight win in Camden on April 30 when they face Rutgers-Camden at noon.
Parcelluzzi doesn’t plan to look ahead of Rutgers, knowing that NJAC playoffs are on the horizon. “We are going to break down film like we always do, not look past, just work on ourselves and what we have to do,” said Parcelluzzi. “We are going to prepare ourselves — that’s what we have been saying all season.”