NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ- After two straight wins against Union Catholic and Hoboken, the New Providence High School Pioneers girls varsity team took to their home field, looking to make it three wins in a row, but weren’t able to create a lot of opportunities on their offense, losing to the Cranford High School Cougars by a final score of 2-0 Tuesday afternoon in New Providence.
As the game started, Cranford immediately took control of the game on offense, taking a few early rushes towards the New Providence net, but couldn’t finish their plays. This also featured corner kicks in the first portion of the first half, with no goals. It all changed in the last ten minutes of the opening period.
After being rewarded a free kick, Cranford sophomore Maggie Murphy fired the ball towards the net and with the players in front, the ball went through the net for the game’s opening goal at the 30:41-mark of the first half, putting the Cougars ahead 1-0.
The goal was Murray’s third of the season, finally coming through a first half which featured all chances and no goals to finish them.
“They had a wall [of players] in front of me and the goalie was on the far post and I knew she was going to slide over to the near post,” Murray said. “I kind of just chipped it over to the far post and it went over [New Providence goaltender Erin Lamanna].”
About a minute and a half later, New Providence made an attempt to tie the game, but the play went just wide.
With all the chances they had, Cranford only led New Providence 1-0 at halftime.
“I thought we were pressuring, we were in their third [part of the field] for most of the half,” Cranford head coach Andrew Gagliardo said. “Via statistics, I think we had five crosses, four corners [and] four or five shots, so we were, but we were a little unlucky today.”
As the second half started, the teams would trade scoring chances through free kicks, but both teams couldn’t turn those chances into goals, the score remaining 1-0 with Cranford sill out in front.
After a throw-in and passing around the New Providence net, Cranford sophomore Brooke Swandrak took a pass from a teammate and banked it home to give her team a 2-0 lead.
“On that specific set-play that we had, Claire Ganley, the defender who took that kick, she made sure she set it down quick and saw I was open at the far corner,” Swandrak said. “She kicked it quickly so I could score the insurance goal.”
New Providence continued trying to set every chance up for a goal, but they couldn’t quite break through the Cranford defense.
“I think there were two or three more [goals] we could’ve had in and finished off, but I was happy with the way the girls played today,” Gagliardo said.
Cranford junior goaltender Kristina Kourtbaoui recorded a shutout, stopping the New Providence chances that came her way, but she credited her teammates and their strong play on both sides as a major contributor to the win.
“This win was a turning point in our season and we’re going to go forward,” Kourtbaoui said. “The forwards, the mid-fields and the defenders, we were all working together and without each other, this game wouldn’t have resulted in the way it did.”
Although they came up short, the Pioneers were pleased with their game play throughout the entirety of the afternoon.
“Coming into the game, we knew Cranford was going to be tough,” New Providence head coach Scott Murphy said. “All we wanted was to come out and play the way we’ve been trying to play [with] short passing and looking to get the ball forward.”
“We kind of did it in the first half,” he added. “[Cranford] scored on a very nice free kick, which is what we need to work on is defending set pieces. We had a couple of opportunities on a counter that could’ve changed the outcome, but we worked the game plan the way we wanted to. Our girls played tough today and I’m proud of them for that.”
New Providence junior goaltender Erin Lamanna echoed Murphy’s words and said her players did all the right things from the game plan despite coming up empty on the offensive part of the afternoon.
“[My teammates] were looking for fast-breaks up the field and we were looking for every opportunity we could get,” Lamanna said.
The New Providence Pioneers (3-5) will face off against Governor Livingston HS Thursday afternoon in a home game at 4 p.m.
The Cranford Cougars (3-4) head out on the road to play at Rahway HS Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m.