PARSIPPANY, NJ - The West Essex Lady Knights were eliminated from the NJSIAA Tournament in the quarterfinal round Thursday afternoon, after being blanked by Parsippany, 5-0. The speed of the Red Hawk forwards, especially Salena LeDonne, who recorded a hat-trick, was a deciding factor.
“It’s tough to lose, especially a, 5-0, loss, but they played to the last second,” West Essex Head Coach Allison Decker said. “Getting to the quarterfinals of the state tournament is still a great honor, and it says a lot about our seniors.”
LeDonne and Faith Preziosi, who consistently got behind the West Essex defense all afternoon, gave the Knights fits. After a competitive first half, in which West Essex continually kept the ball in the Parsippany zone, LeDonne was finally able to break through the West Essex line with nifty ball handling, finding the net with 10 minutes left in the first half.
Less than two minutes later, Preziosi made some terrific one-on-one moves, after the Knights hustled back on defense during a breakaway, and found the top right corner of the net, making it, 2-0, Parsippany. The half ended with the same score, as the Knights had trouble mustering any serious scoring threats
Early in the second half, Preziosi connected on a great corner kick, which led to a textbook header by Jessica Vargas, putting the Red Hawks up, 3-0, in the 55th minute. Parsippany stretched the lead to, 4-0, in the 66th minute when LeDonne cherry-picked her second goal, on what seemed to be a missed offside call—a line the Red Hawks were pushing all afternoon as there were a handful of times they were whistled for being offside.
“The refs control the game, all I can do is control my team,” said Decker. “As long as we keep playing and adjusting to situations, it’s really all we can do.”
Haley Pignatelli, Hannah Maqsudi, Ragan Kelley and Maria Birth all had assists for Parsippany. Daniella Spillert took care of all three of her save chances.
West Essex fought hard to the final whistle, putting together some late scoring chances that would ultimately be denied. The final score wasn’t indicative of the play on the field, as Parsippany only outshot West Essex, 8-4, but the Red Hawks made five of them count.
First-year head coach Decker and West Essex finish the year (4-13-2) highlighted by a strong showing in the state tournament.
“We play a lot of tough competition but the seniors were amazing, out-of-this world, they worked their butts off,” said Decker. “They brought this team from all being separate to coming together to the quarterfinals of the states. And I couldn’t be more proud, or more impressed with their efforts. Again, we play a lot of tough competition and I think that helps prepare us for the state tournament, but it’s not an easy journey for us and we will look to rebuild for next year.”
Parsippany next takes on Lyndhurst on Nov. 9 in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Section 2, Group 2 Tournament.