SPOTSWOOD, NJ - When the 4-2 Metuchen High School Bulldogs took the soccer field against the 5-0 Spotswood High School Chargers on Monday, there was a lot on the line. The two schools have a rivalry, but the Spotswood High School girls varsity soccer team was one of three Greater Middlesex Conference teams who had not lost a game to start the 2019 season.
Metuchen went at the Chargers hard and after two overtime periods, the teams left the field with a tie. Spotswood's undefeated streak remains intact, but the Chargers face a tough challenge this week taking the field against Wardlaw-Hartridge today and Carteret on Friday. Longtime girls varsity soccer coach Michael Reid is confident in his team's abiity to face the upcoming test.
"It has been a very difficult stretch of St. Thomas Aquinas this past Friday, Metuchen on Monday with games against Wardlaw on Wednesday and at Carteret on Friday around the corner," explained Reid. "It is possibly the most difficult stretch of games a team could have in our division this year. If we can get good results and while staying healthy this week we can set ourselves up for a very good chance to win a division title. The girls are fully aware of this and are looking forward to the challenges."
The Chargers have finished third in the GMC for the past three autumns. It has been a goal of the team since the preseason to set its sights on a Blue Division title along with making deep runs in the county and state tournaments.
"We are in a very good position in many aspects through our first six games," Reid said.
Reid, who is also a physical education teacher at the Spotswood School District's Appleby School, has been on the bench for the Chargers for 14 season. He has 157 victories as a head coach to date.
"The good start to the season can be attributed to as far back as the early summer," Reid said when asked what he thinks contributed to the 5-0-1 start. "The girls participated in a 7 v 7 summer league and won the league for the first time in program history. There were some high quality teams in the league and after performing well in the league we knew this season had potential to be special. It carried over into our last three preseason games and right into the start of the season."
In six games, the Chargers have only allowed one goal. Junior goalkeeper Julia Masucci earned a shutout in the first four games of the season. The one goal came against St. Thomas Aquinas last week.
"Defending is a total team effort so the entire team and every player has done well in their defending role on the field," Reid said. "We've returned a lot of experience back from the last two to three seasons in Randi Wells, Kaylee Leonard, Jamie Zavala, Britney Canales and Sofia Vieira. This group has played against some very good attacking teams and dynamic players over the past couple of seasons. They are always ready for big games and take pride in how they defend as a unit."
"Our sophomores of Giana Oelkers and Denise Carroll and Krishna Craig have the ability and can play an important part of our defensive system too moving forward," Reid continued. "Add all of this experience together along with one of the top goalkeepers in the county in Julia Masucci and it makes it difficult for teams to breakdown. Masucci is as fundamentally sound as it gets in all goalkeeper aspects. She has made a number of difficult saves this year to keep teams off of the scoreboard."
In addition to the team's solid defensive unit, the Chargers have been getting goal production too. Sophomore Kirti Craig has netted six goals in six games and has two assists. Junior Mandee Mendez has three goals and five assists.
"Kirti Craig and Mandee Mendez have been a big part of the offense so far," Reid said. "They both are very talented players that have an ability to change a game at any time. This is their second year playing together in the midfield and both players have created a lot of goals and assists for the program. We are looking forward to seeing how much both players develop individually and in our system of play on the field."
Along with Craig and Mendez, the Chargers have other talented playmarkers looking to make their mark on the field and on the scoreboard.
"We are also looking forward to the growth of a lot of attacking players in Lauri McLeod, Haiden Gonzalez, Laci Brown, Cailin Lennan, Stephanie Yarnall and Kayla Sabo," Reid added.
Lennan scored the first goal of the season for the Chargers in the team's 1-0 victory over Carteret. Brown and McLeod found the back of the net in the 6-0 win over JFK while Yarnall has two goals as well.
Colonia lost yesterday to Sayreville, leaving Spotswood and South River as the only girls soccer team sin the GMC who have not lost. South River is 5-0. Spotswood's matchup with Wardlaw-Hartridge High School this afternoon in Edison will be a tough one. The Rams are 4-1 in the team's last five games and have the edge in the series with the Chargers. In the past five meetings, Wardlaw-Hartridge has beaten the Chargers three times. The Rams shutout Spotswood both times the teams met last season. Game time today is 4 p.m.