CLARK, NJ - The Elizabeth Minutemen girls soccer team has been on a tear for the past month since their 4-2 loss at Rahway HS on September 12. They continued on with their winning ways Tuesday afternoon at Nolan Field in Clark. With a 2-1 victory, Elizabeth HS has now won 11 straight games.
The Minutemen opened the scoring early on, with junior Mariaelena Torres cutting in the scoring lane, shooting the ball towards the left corner and cashing in for her 14th goal of the season at 4:52 of the first half.
“As a team, we worked together and that’s very good of us,” Torres said. “Also, playing against this good team [Johnson], we played together and had a good win today.”
The teams traded chances back and forth, but the score remained 1-0 Elizabeth HS. The Crusaders had a few good looks on the net.
Johnson senior and co-captain Deserae Sequeira passed the ball to sophomore Kylee Zawacki, but her shot on net hit the post, staying out. They had a series of potential chances to get back in the game, but Elizabeth junior goaltender Victoria Antunes stood tall and didn’t allow any chances to get by in the first half.
Elizabeth led Johnson 1-0 at halftime, and the teams went back and forth with one another for most of the second half.
A crucial moment took place that allowed Elizabeth an opportunity to extend their lead when Johnson senior goaltender and co-captain Meaghan Gallagher was issued a yellow card and had to come out of the game for the next play.
Elizabeth sophomore Victoria Bastos cashed in with the penalty kick goal to extend the Minutemen’s lead to 2-0 at 27:30 of the second half.
“I basically just took a breath and placed the ball [into the net],” Bastos said. “With one of our players drawing the penalty and the goalie coming out [due to the yellow card], that gave us the solid structure to get the win.”
The defense for the Minutemen proved crucial throughout the game, holding the Crusaders at bay, stopping major scoring chances, earning the praise of their head coach after the close victory.
“I told my team that if we play together, and you score a goal, now you’re putting the pressure on the other team,” Elizabeth head coach Antonio Almeida said. “I told them to go for the second goal because we were taking advantage of the disconcentration (sic) of the other team.”
“Overall, I think all our players played well, particularly the defense was cohesive and they fought the whole game,” he added. “I don’t want to give credit to only the defense because everybody played really well. We had a lot of chances to put more goals on a very good team that Clark is. Overall, I thought it was two teams that really played well and it was a game that could’ve gone to either side.”
The penalty kick goal was a key score for Elizabeth, because Johnson would not go down without a late push.
Crusaders senior Tatiana Nieto took a free kick on net, beating Antunes for her fourth goal of the season at 31:10 of the second half to give her team a chance to come back.
Only allowing Nieto’s goal, Antunes made five saves on six shots on net.
“When they scored on us, what’s more important is that the morale of our entire team sticks together,” Antunes said. “Everyone cheers each other up, we keep our heads high because our firm morale [led us to the win].”
Gallagher came up huge in the second half, making two diving saves to stop two Elizabeth breakaway shots on goal. She made eight saves on ten shots in the loss for Johnson.
Injuries have continued to be a topic for the Crusaders this season, who came off a loss in the first round of the Union County Tournament against Rahway HS on Saturday.
Head coach Meredith Peitz said Nieto and junior Pam Law both played the game with injuries, while sophomores Natalya Torres and Camila Howard sat out with injuries of their own.
Junior Nicole Buczynski is out for the season after suffering an injury to her knee on September 24 against Governor Livingston.
Peitz was impressed with her team’s effort throughout the game despite their roster being depleted.
“Our entire lineup is brand new; we have a lot of injuries. Five of our starting players are out,” Peitz said. “So, going from there, I think the girls played awesome today and worked really hard despite [Elizabeth] having a 2-0 lead.”
“I think a 2-1 loss considering [the fact that] our team is all banged up is pretty awesome. I’m proud of them.”
The Johnson Crusaders (9-3) look to rebound next Tuesday afternoon, October 18 with a home game against Kent Place HS at 4:00 p.m.
The Elizabeth Minutemen (12-2) face off against South Plainfield HS in a home game Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m, hoping to make it 12 straight wins.