CLARK, NJ-  Arthur L. Johnson High School senior Natalya Torres has been an anchor of the Crusaders offense, being tied for the team lead in goals with six on the season, In a tightly-played game of the Union County Tournament against the New Providence High School Pioneers, she came through for her team in a big way.

After the teams played through a scoreless first half, Torres scored two goals as the Crusaders defeated the Pioneers 2-0 Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the 2018 Girls Soccer Union County Tournament in Clark.

The Johnson Crusaders (9-0) advance to the Union County Tournament Quarterfinals. They will play at second-seeded Union HS Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m.

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Their next scheduled regular season game is on Tuesday, October 16 against Governor Livingston HS at 4:00 p.m.

Torres narrowly gave her team a 1-0 lead in the closing seconds of the first half, but rang a shot off the goal post and it went out of play. She was able to redeem her earlier missed opportunity as the second half went along.

She burst through the defense towards the loose ball and cashed in on a look, giving her team the 1-0 lead at 18:37 of the second half, ending what was a wild, 59+ minute scoreless battle. Her second goal came with 11 seconds left in the game, icing away the game and securing it for her team.

She now has eight goals on the season. Her first one was assisted by senior Camila Howard and her second goal was assisted by senior Cecilia Puentes.

“[Natalya and Cecilia] have been playing for a long time, so they have good chemistry,” Johnson head coach Ken Leeder said. “They always find a way to get one or two goals and they did that today. They played hard.”

The first half was a completely different story between the two teams. Johnson and New Providence both exchanged several scoring opportunities and corner kicks that missed the net. There were five free kicks and two corner kicks that were either deflected away, kicked out of trouble or shots kicked out of play.

“The first time we played [Johnson], we were playing in a different formation, so we kind of changed to be a little more defensive. We knew they wanted to try and play on top of us, so we tried to drop in a little more defense.”

Coming into action, New Providence presented a more defensive presence on Johnson than the first game played between the two teams. The Crusaders knew they were going to have to match the Pioneers in their game to keep track.

“It was definitely the possession we had, passing up the sidelines,” Johnson senior Kylee Zawacki said. “We had to keep it out of the middle because we knew their strongest players were in the middle and if they got the ball, they were going to capitalize on their chance.”

“We kept it outside and we kept our passing good. Eventually, the second half came and one of our passes worked and we got it in the back of the net,” she added.

The second half consisted of more of that, but a lot more pressure by both sides, which included a Johnson chance and a New Providence chance each going off the top goal post and out of play. After missing an earlier chance, Torres would not be denied as she cashed in for the first goal.

“It felt great because all of the girls were working so hard. That goal was all of our hard work. It paid off,” Torres said.

The two teams met on September 11, with Johnson winning 2-0, but the style of the game today being a lot different than that game. New Providence was 6-3-1 since that loss and made it a grinding effort in the first half.

“Our communication, from our forwards all the way to our backs is what we wanted,” Murphy said.

The Pioneers were impressed with their effort on the afternoon, as they look ahead to the rest of the season.

“Sometimes, we lost our formation, but we always managed to get back together,” New Providence senior Nicole Fusco said. “We kept talking, which is good and we really kept the pressure going.”

The New Providence Pioneers (6-5-1) head back home to play Linden HS on Tuesday, October 16 at 4:00 p.m.