WESTFIELD — The perfect opportunity took nearly the whole game to present itself, but once it came, Scotch Plains-Fanwood made sure not to miss it.
After the Raiders and Blue Devils — both meeting as unranked teams for the first time in years — played 77 minutes of virtually even soccer, Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s chance came and it was capitalized by a familiar foe of Westfield’s.
Corinne Lyght scored with just over three minutes remaining in regulation to lift Scotch Plains-Fanwood over arch rival Westfield, 1-0, Saturday afternoon at a rainy Wexler Field. She also scored both goals in the Raiders’ 2-0 win over the Blue Devils on September 7, as the Raiders have now swept the regular-season series.
“Westfield’s defense is really great, so we just knew that we had to take advantage of our opportunities,” Lyght told TAPinto.net. “We knew that it might come — we didn’t know exactly when it would come — but when it did, we just knew we had to capitalize.”
In most senses of the game, the first 77 minutes were relatively uneventful. A few opportunities existed here and there, but both team’s midfields are strong and the game was primarily relegated in the center.
Then, with overtime looming three minutes away, it all changed. Stefanie DeVizio played a ball over top to Lyght in the Raiders’ offensive zone, where Lyght received the pass and broke free. Westfield goal keeper Caitlyn Amman became the only obstacle before the goal. As Amman came out of the box to try and stop the attack, Lyght pushed a shot perfectly to goalkeeper's left hand side.
Lyght’s shot rolled right into the net, giving the Raiders their eighth win of the season.
“Stefanie DeVizio played me a great ball over the defense’s heads, and I was just able to — as the goalie came out — hit it passed her quickly,” Lyght said. “She was coming out really fast, so I knew I had to take advantage of that moment.”
Lyght has taken advantage of many more moments than just that one this year. As the situations keeper getting harder, she is the type of player who shines brightest when the Raiders need her most. That’s now her ninth goal of the season, and she will be relied upon in a huge way as the team approaches the upcoming county and state tournaments.
“She’s only a sophomore, and she’s been doing awesome,” Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Kevin Ewing said. “She’s just such a tough kid. I’m really proud of her.”
The win is a big one for the Raiders, as they've now strung two wins together against Westfield and Union -- two premier opponents -- after not winning in three straight contest prior to Thursday.
“We’re a really young team, and just to get a win in a tight game like that says a lot about the kids," Ewing said. "They’ve been working hard the last like seven or eight games — we’ve been missing some kids and kids have been stepping up — and they’re just playing hard for 80 minutes. That’s all you can ask. It was nice that we got that goal because Westfield’s a good team, and it’s always a good game.”
The chances were few for Westfield, as the Blue Devils had trouble advancing into the Raiders defensive third. However, Sophie Hendricks nearly put on in for Westfield 30 minutes into the first half.
Hendricks line up to take a direct free kick from the right flank and it bounced off the gloves of Raiders keeper Maya Kessler. The shot hit off the crossbar and bounced directly down, and the Raiders would soon clear it.
Westfield managed just five shots and the Raiders matched that number. The Raiders' keeper Maya Kessler saved all five, while Amman stopped four.
"I think our record (4-4-1) doesn't reflect how much good soccer we're playing," Westfield head coach Alex Schmidt said. "Taking Cranford to double OT, taking Scotch Plains to the last three minutes... we just need to find the back of the goal. We've been working on it in practice, getting our strikers some shots, and our defense did phenomenal today."