Three words to describe this game on paper.
Back and forth.
It was 0-0 for 80 percent of the game, but if you were there watching, only two words described how the Montclair State University Red Hawks performed against the Golden Wolves of Alvernia University.
In the 72nd minute, Aileen Cahill was fouled in the box and was awarded what was probably their most straightforward shot of the whole game. And just like last season junior midfielder Cahill capitalized. Cahill felt a weight come off of the team’s shoulders with that equalizer of a goal.
“It just felt good to release a little bit of the pressure,” Cahill said. “Obviously we wanted to keep going and keep attacking, but just to know that we had one up, not that we were going to sit back or anything, but we were like ‘okay, we’re fine.’”
The 71 minutes prior had it all for a quality home soccer game. Clear skies, fans yelling from the Red Hawk Deck, and Montclair State kept on taking the ball down the other end of the pitch. The Golden Wolves of Alvernia did not have an answer for the aggressive offense.
Well, the opponent did put up some kind of a response, but it was not enough by any means. Alvernia had 23 fewer shots, five fewer shots on goal and nine fewer corner kicks.
But even though the Red Hawks had a wealth of shot opportunities, many of them did not connect. But head coach Patrick Naughter looked to the positive heading into the second half, which ended up with Cahill’s lone goal needed to secure the victory.
“We knew we were playing really well,” Naughter said. “The hardest thing to do was score a goal. Credit to [Alvernia], they made it very difficult. I knew they were very well-coached and really organized. We got a little unlucky on the post and the crossbar, but I just told them to take it one play at a time.”
That isn’t a typo. The Red Hawks were so close with shot opportunities that shots hit the bottom right post and the middle of the crossbar. Even Rocky the Red Hawk could not believe what he was seeing. But in the end, the penalty kick from Cahill was the saving grace for this team.
Alvernia did play hard, as they are looking to look past a 3-12 record from last season and get off on some better footing, but an opening game against the Red Hawks does not make that easy. Junior forward Lauren Ernst knew it would be tough, but was happy to finally be out there playing for real.
“Alvernia was a good team and they were very physical,” Ernst said. “In comparison to the [New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC)], it’s a very competitive league, so no one plays easy. But all of us were hyped to be out there and play our first game. We were working hard all summer to get ready for this, and we all just balled out.”
“Balled out” is certainly a good way to describe not only the Red Hawks’ offense but also the defense in this game. Senior defender Jessica DeSarno, toward the end of the game, had some clutch slide tackles and deflections to prevent the Golden Wolves from going on a last-minute run.
And senior goalkeeper Haley Martin faced only three shots on goal and saved all three of them. She was especially crucial in this matchup, and Naughter made it clear why.
“[Martin] has been awesome,” Naughter said. “She has had a very on-even time since she got here, but we know she can be the best goalkeeper in the conference, and right now there is nobody else in the conference we would rather have at goal.”
As Timmy Trumpet’s famous song “Narco” played out at the end of the game, Cahill left Montclair State Soccer Park feeling like Mets closer Edwin Diaz, throwing a perfect inning to save the game. The Red Hawks now move ahead to their road trip to Massachusetts, where they will face Gordon College on Saturday and Endicott College on Sunday.