After making it to the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament in 2022, the Montclair State University Women’s Soccer team has gotten off to a hot start in 2023.
The Red Hawks are 6-1 this season and are in the middle of a five-game winning streak. Both sides of the ball have been executing thus far, as Montclair State has 20 goals through seven games and has given up nine.
One of the season’s most important games was against New Jersey City University on Sept. 22nd. NJCU is in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC), and this was the first NJAC matchup of the season for the Red Hawks.
The Red Hawks looked unbeatable for the most part as they won 6-2, and following the game Montclair State Coach Patrick Naughter gave his thoughts on the first NJAC matchup of the year.
“I expected it to be a battle,” Naughter said. “Everything in the NJAC is gonna be a battle. I know what we do against other teams, I know what they do against other teams, and I know it’s cliche but you throw records out the window. I felt we did a great job executing a game plan to jump out to a lead, and then I feel we just got a little casual. We let them back in, and we can’t do that.”
Naughter is referring to NJCU making it a one-goal game early in the second half. Montclair State was up 3-0 coming out of the first half, and many of the starters were out of the game. Following the second goal by NJCU, Naughter immediately brought the starters back in.
“In hindsight, I probably should’ve eased into the amount of changes I made,” Naughter said. “That’s something I’m gonna take a look at. I think I put a lot of kids in bad spots. I have to kind of reassess that. But then when we got back with that first group I thought they were awesome. No panic, no anger, no fear, they knew what had to be done.
The final goal of the night for the Red Hawks was from Sophomore Mikayla Henderson. Henderson is coming off of a knee injury which kept her off of the field in 2022, and it was her first goal back from injury.
Henderson talked about how her continued comeback from injury is something she is personally focused on for the rest of this season.
“Personally, for me, I’m still coming back from an injury so I would like to get more time and the more that I work and the more that I recover, I feel like that’s in my future.”
The goal may have been in the final minutes, but it did not mean any less to the team as a whole. Henderson’s impact on the team as a whole was something that Coach Naughter stressed the importance of in his post-game interview.
“Unfortunately there are a lot of injuries in soccer and in women’s soccer in particular, and that’s something that hits home. But when it’s a kid like Mikayla Henderson who has unbridled passion, who is a great teammate, who never has low energy, and who is always ready to do what it takes for the team, for that kid to get rewarded, that was one of those where it was just chills.”
This Red Hawks team can compete with anyone in the nation but what makes them most special is the bond the team has. You could see the genuine excitement everyone had for Henderson.
Through seven games, Montclair State’s women’s soccer is once again looking like a championship threat and is ranked 11th in the nation.
Looking forward, the Red Hawks have two NJAC games in a row with Stockton University on Sept. 27 and Ramapo College on Sept. 30. Although the start has been impressive, the Red Hawks would be the first to tell you that the job is not finished. It is just beginning.