Colts Neck, N.J. - It’s been a week of second half comebacks for the St. John Vianney girls soccer team.
Rallying on Tuesday night to defeat Middletown North in overtime 2-1, the Lancers again showed their toughness and resiliency on Thursday from battling down two goals to upend Colts Neck for their fifth win of the season.
Led by a great second half performance by senior captain Abby Cieri, St. John Vianny earned a 3-2 comeback win over the Cougars to extend its winning streak to three straight games.
“This year, our leadership group does not give up hope,” said St. John Vianney girls soccer coach Justin Meehan. “We just keep playing our system and doing our thing and eventually good things happen.”
Colts Neck’s Averie Engel was the reason St. John Vianney found itself in a two-goal hole with scoring her first two goals of the season.
The sophomore knocked home the game’s first goal with 15:59 to go in the first half, banking in her first goal of the season off the rebound of St. John Vianney’s goalkeeper Kelsea Nolen’s kick save from the Cougars’ free kick to put Colts Neck up 1-0.
Engel struck again for the Cougars in the second half.
Following Jenna Kushnir’s corner kick to the box, Engel beat Nolan to the ball and slapped in her second goal of the day in the 55th minute to put the Cougars up two.
“Coming into this game, I definitely wanted to score and get that first goal out of the way,” Engel said. “I wanted to show Coach Hein that I can score and that he can keep putting me in because I can get the job done. Hopefully this leads to more goals this season.”
Down 2-0, the Lancers showed the same type of toughness and fight presented in their comeback win over Middletown North by striking back a few minutes later to get back in the game.
The senior duo, Cieri and Victoria Coppola, started the St. John Vianney charge with Coppola hitting her free kick into the box, where her fellow senior teammate was in great position to beat the pack in the air to the ball and head home the first Lancer goal of the game in the 58th minute.
“We needed to get some sort of momentum going,” Cieri said. “It was a great ball from Victoria (Coppola). Once we got that goal, we had all the momentum going through and we kept pushing.”
Cieri helped set up the equalizer for the Lancers with 15:51 left to play.
The senior fed a sweet pass to teammate Leah Notaro in front of the net and the young freshman slashed in her first goal of the contest to tie things up 2-2.
Not finished yet with the game only tied, Cieri made the St. John Vianney comeback complete with putting the Lancers in front for the first time, with her second goal of the game.
Controlling the ball about five yards from the box in the Colts Neck zone, Cieri sent a booming overhead shot that went over Colts Neck goalkeeper Kaitlyn Torres’ head and into the net with 12:40 left to play to give St. John Vianey the lead.
“I was just thinking get a shot on goal. Someone could crash the net or anything could happen,” Cieri said. “It was a great comeback. Everyone worked hard. We had a good talk at halftime talking about strategy and we all delivered on the field.”
Cieri now has three goals and five assists on the season.
Colts Neck tried to mount a comeback of its own in the final two minutes of play, getting a shot on goal by Catherine O'Connor off a free kick that Nolen leaped up and knocked away.
“It didn’t matter how I made the save, it was just any way I could to knock the ball away,” Nolen said. “I’m really proud of us for how we held our own in those last few minutes.”
The Cougars had another golden chance to tie it up with just over a minute remaining as Eva Roros lined up for a free kick just off the box.
Corralling her own rebound after the ball bounced back to her off the St. John Vianney wall, Roros sent a laser beam of a shot that nailed the top crossbar and bounced back, that almost tied the game up for the Cougars.
St. John Vianney was then able to get the ball out of its zone and hold on for its second straight comeback victory.
“We’re a team that can do big things, because we don’t give up on each other,” Meehan said. “We’re a resilient bunch. We just have to keep doing our thing.”
Nolen finished with four saves in the win for St. John Vianney.
Torres had 14 saves in net for the Cougars.
St. John Vianney is now 5-2 on the season and a perfect 3-0 in Shore Conference B-North Division play.
Colts Neck drops to 3-3-1 on the year.
The Lancers will next travel to play Bridgewater-Raritan on Sunday, while Colts Neck will try to bounce back on the road against Ocean Township on Wednesday.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports