SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — As it left Cranford on September 19, having just lost their first and only game to date, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood girls soccer team knew that it could play much better.
Since that match nearly a month ago, the Raiders have played at a higher level than they have in some time, going unbeaten (7-0-1) and out-scoring opponents, 33-9. But getting revenge on the Cranford was on the minds of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood players.
The Raiders won, 3-2, thanks to a dramatic three-goal, second half rally, capped by Corinne Lyght’s game-winner in the 78th minute Tuesday at Wexler field. After the Raiders rallied to tie at one early in the second half on Leah Klurman’s goal, Cranford jumped back ahead in the 70th. But the Raiders rallied again to tie the game at two on a Lily Camacho score in the 75th minute before Lyght found the ball at her feet and won it three minutes later.
“We just have to have the mentality that we don’t give up until the game is over,” Lyght said. “The game wasn’t over when they went up, 2-1, and we knew we just had to fight back. Last time, we knew we could play so much better. We knew we just had to bring the intensity that they brought last time we played them, and just match it.”
At no surprise, Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s surge since that lone loss is largely in part because of Lyght’s play. The All-American junior has been an absolute force during this now eight-game unbeaten streak, in which 10 of her 14 total goals have come. She’s had four multi-goal games during that span, but on Tuesday, her one goal was perhaps the biggest of all them.
With the game knotted up at two and regulation time ticking down between the two defending county finalist — both of whom can see each other again in the county final, provided they secure wins in this weekend’s semis — Lyght found a golden opportunity and did not miss it. She won possession of a loose ball just outside the 18-box, quickly switched feet and moved by her defender into open space, then buried the strike to send the Raiders home happy.
“The ball was bouncing around right outside the 18 and I had it on my left foot,” Lyght said. “There was a lot of space on my right side, so I knew I had to get it over to my right foot. I just had to take a touch to get by the defender. I did that, and I just knew I had to bury it for the team.”
Lyght was unquestionably a deciding factor in the Raiders’ three-goal second half, creating opportunities and making things happen countless times against an elite Cranford backline that had allowed just five goals in its previous nine games.
“I think she is the best player in the county,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Kevin Ewing. “Offensively, she’s just so tough. Her up top and with the girls that we have in the back, like Leah Klurman, we have some really excellent players. Corinne was just outstanding.”
Lyght is a major part of the engine that makes the Raiders roll, but she is not the only one. When presented with opportunities to score prior to Lyght’s goal, Scotch Plains-Fanwood was able to convert and used its wealth of talent to do so.
First there was Klurman’s unassisted free kick strike in the 52nd, which got the Raiders even at one after a hard takeout down the right flank. While that got the ball rolling for the offensive explosion, the Raiders would soon once again find themselves in need of an equalizer after Cranford finished a bouncing ball inside the box with just under 10 minutes remaining.
The answer would come from Camacho, a freshman, who headed in a tremendous cross from Lizzie Ley to tie it back up at two and give the Raiders all the momentum to set up the game-winner moments later.
“We’ve been talking about getting numbers in the box on crosses, and the girls did that today,” Ewing said. “Our overall intensity picked up in the second half. We talked about controlling more possession, and I think we did that. We created opportunities. We had some of those opportunities in the first half, but we didn’t cash in. Cranford is a good team, and they have an excellent defense.”
The inability to finish during the first half came at the cost of a 1-0 halftime deficit for the Raiders. But with the knowledge gained from coming up short on September 19, Scotch Plains-Fanwood knew it had to play better and take advantage of its opportunities -- and that's exactly what it did.
Goalkeeper Maya Kessler made eight saves for the Raiders, who out-shot Cranford, 20-10.
“We have to forget about the first half,” said Lyght. “We didn’t play our best. We just had to build on it and move on. We knew that we could play so much better, and that’s what we did. We took advantage of our opportunities, and that’s how we won."
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