SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ — Once the rain began, it poured — goals — for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls’ soccer team Thursday; it just took a while to begin falling.
Despite being matched play for play in a scoreless first half, the Raiders pulled away in the second, netting four goals in a 25-minute span to blow past the Highlanders, 4-0, and improve to 3-1 on the 2017 season.
Leading the charge on the successful afternoon for Scotch Plains-Fanwood was senior Erika Muskus, who picked up where she left off Tuesday, netting a pair of goals for the second consecutive game, including the go-ahead score.
Muskus’ first goal broke the ice of a 0-0 match in the fourth minute of the second half. The midfielder found the ball at her feet just in front of the left side of the goal, and pushed a shot passed Gov. Livingston goalkeeper Michelle Coyle that found the back of the net and gave the Raiders a lead they would not relent.
“It wasn’t the shot I wanted to get off; it was a little weak,” Muskus said. “But I was happy that it went in. It was really relieving, because I knew when we scored one, that we would just keep dominating and obviously finish them off.”
And she was right, because her first goal opened up the floodgates and the Raiders poured on three more goals in the second half to finish G.L.
Four minutes after the first goal, Danielle Mrozek tapped in a ball that rebounded off the Highlanders’ keeper immediately following a Raiders point-blank shot attempt. Danielle’s sister, Katie, then dished out a pair of assists — one to Corinne Lyght, who netted her third career goal by directing Mrozek’s cross between the posts, and one which provided Muskus with the ball on her second goal of the day.
Muskus, who will play at Gettysburg College next year, has now found the back of the net four times in the Raiders’ last two games — a pair of goals in each.
“Playing attacking-center this season has really been working for me — moving the ball throughout the center and looking to switch the field,” said Muskus. “The 1-2 ball has been on recently, so I think just getting my head up and finding space, switching the field has been working really well.”
While the second half was a scoring clinic and display of possession-of-ball dominance put on by Scotch Plains, the first half was quite the opposite.
The Raiders were stymied by a Gov. Livingston team that came into Wexler Field with high energy and stellar defense in the opening half. Holding Scotch Plains-Fanwood scoreless in the first 43 minutes, the Highlanders played nearly flawless soccer in the beginning half to push Scotch Plains to its limits. While it didn’t score, Gov. Livingston clearly took advantage of some weaker aspects of Scotch Plains’ game, and if it were not for goalie Maya Kessler’s six saves, could have taken a lead into halftime.
“We just are not coming ready to play, for whatever reason. Soccer games are 80 minutes long, and the girls aren’t [playing] that,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Kevin Ewing. “Governor Livingston took us out of our game a little bit. They played offsides trap, but we adjusted for it in the second half and did a much better job.”
The Raiders were able to fire off 13 total shots on goal — the majority of them coming in the second half — and held the opposing Highlanders to just six all game, and virtually none in the final 40 minutes.
“I think that the second half, we really picked it up. But we really need to start coming out strong in the first half — otherwise we’re not going to get this outcome always,” Muskus said. “We have a pretty tough game on Saturday [against Union], so if we come out like we did in the second half, we’re going to definitely put them away.”
The Raiders will indeed look to come out like they did in Thursday’s second half, when Union pays them a visit Saturday morning at 11 a.m.