CLARK, NJ-  After a decisive 4-0 win against 15th seeded Rahway in the preliminary round of the UCT [behind a pair of goals by junior Maddy Engelbrechtsen and Juliana DeGeorge and Olivia Faucher chipping in with one a piece], the 10th-seeded New Providence Pioneers traveled to Clark to face the undefeated 7th seed Johnson Crusaders in the first round on Tuesday. 

Johnson 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 in the 2-0 victory Tuesday afternoon in the first round of the 2018 Girls Soccer Union County Tournament in Clark.

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

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.

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.

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

“It was definitely the possession we had, picking up the side,” 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 the same, but a lot more pressure by both sides, which included chances from both sides 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.

“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.”

Next up, New Providence (6-5-1)  plays Linden on Tuesday, October 16 at 4 p.m.