SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — For the first time all season, Scotch Plains-Fanwood had allowed a goal. Despite answering right back against their arch rivals, the Raiders and fellow Union County powerhouse Westfield were mired in a 1-1 tie after one half of play Tuesday afternoon.
Surely, there were some nerves entering halftime at Wexler Field.
“I feel like everyone was a little shaky with the first goal,” said sophomore defender Ashley Defrancesco. “But after that, at halftime, we were all pumped up and ready to finish it and play strong to win.”
Scotch Plains-Fanwood sure finished it, and leading that charge was Defrancesco. The centerback’s rare moment to come up in a scoring chance resulted in the go-ahead goal, as she finished Leah Klurman’s free kick in the 60th minute to sever the 1-1 tie and put the Raiders on top for good.
That was actually the middle of three unanswered goals from the Raiders, who first tied the game on a Faith Price score in the 28th, then iced the victory on Devon Danielovich’s goal just a minute after Defrancesco’s. In addition to Klurman, Gia Milano and Gabby Aloe dished out assists for the Raiders. Maya Kessler came up with four saves for the win in goal.
Ellie Sherman had given Westfield a brief 1-0 lead with a 23rd minute score.
The Raiders remain undefeated (5-0) and have now outscored opponents, 14-1, so far this season.
That undefeated streak, however, appeared in jeopardy when the Raiders and Blue Devils were staring down a potential overtime with the clock slowly counting down in the second half. But one perfectly-placed free kick and finish put away all of those worries.
With the ball positioned just outside the top left corner of the 18-box, Klurman drilled a booming kick off her right foot that soared high above the box and to the back post. There to finish it was Defrancesco, who finished it perfectly across the goal line and into the bottom left corner of the net.
“I wasn’t expecting to go in [on offense] at all,” Defrancesco said. “When I saw Leah kick it, I knew that it was going to be perfectly placed because she always gets it to the back post. I was there, and it was just amazing to get ahead for once. Then we were able to contain them until the end.”
With the pressure now off and Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s “Raider Nation” providing the energy, the Raiders put the icing on the cake less than a minute later. Before the celebrations throughout the stands had died down, Danielovich kept the momentum going with a dazzling goal on a ball in the air.
With those two goals, Scotch Plains-Fanwood was once again able to prevail in a hard-fought contest against their rivals. Last season, the Raiders swept the two-game season series, but that was not without its nail bitters, either. The Raiders won both of those games by a combined score of 3-0.
Of course, last year was an uncharacteristic down season for Westfield, which, like Scotch Plains-Fanwood, is always considered a state championship contender and a frequent resident in the statewide rankings. But this season is one that has a lot of prospect for the Blue Devils, which makes it that much more of an impressive victory for the Raiders.
“The girls played pretty well and Westfield’s a good team — it’s always a battle,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Kevin Ewing. “The kids kept their poise and we came back.”
“We have a lot of kids that can play; we’ve been telling the kids that all year.” Ewing added. “It’s a whole team effort together in practice, and that’s what makes us good.”
That Raiders’ balanced attack Tuesday certainly backs up Ewing’s words.
With six players joining the score sheet, that didn’t even include some of the team’s biggest scoring threats — such as Holly Nelson, Rachel Schoss, Brooke Klurman, and Corinne Lyght, who had scored a goal in all four games leading up to Tuesday.
That's only naming a few of the Raiders' key offensive playmakers.
“There’s a lot of talent on the team,” Defrancesco said. “No matter where the ball goes, it’s always a threat to the other team. Hopefully this season, we’ll score a lot more.”
TAPintoSPF.net is Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s only free daily local news source. Sign up for our free daily eNewsletter and “Like” us on Facebook and twitter @SPF_TAP. Download the free TAPinto App for iPhone or Android.