WEST HARTFORD, Conn.— The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's soccer team dropped a 2-0 decision Saturday afternoon in a physical, back-and-forth battle with Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) foe, Suffolk University (SU), on a sunny senior day on the USJ Soccer Field.
With the win, the Rams remain in third in the GNAC standings, improving to 9-4-0 (6-3-0 GNAC). For the Blue Jays, it is their second loss in three games, dipping to 10-3-1 (5-3-1 GNAC). The fight for home field advantage in the upcoming GNAC Postseason Tournament continues to tighten with only a handful of games to go.
Two first-half goals were all the Rams needed, remaining on the defense for much of the second half. Sophomore forward Julia Hunt (Dedham, Mass.), and junior midfielder Liv Hurley (Newburyport, Mass.) both found the net for SU. Junior midfielder Addisyn Lanza (Madison, Conn.) and junior forward Caleigh O'Brien (Wilbraham, Mass.) were credited with assists. Both teams landed 11 shots each, but a 7-5 shot on goal advantage for Suffolk was enough to hold off the fighting Blue Jays.
After honoring senior captain Olivia Norton (Berlin, Conn.) for USJ and senior Emerson Wildes (Dudley, Mass.) for Suffolk, the action got underway, and it was the Blue Jays who looked to strike first. They nearly put one home two minutes in, as a cross to sophomore midfielder Ali O'Neill (Litchfield, Conn.) right in front of the net went just wide. Both teams lofted the ball from one side to the other over the next several minutes.
In the 15th minute, sophomore midfielder Ariana Gazaferi (Southington, Conn.), who came so close so many times on the day, utilized some tricky dribbling to escape Suffolk defenders, and had a decent shot on net about 20 yards out, missing wide by only a foot and a half. Junior defender Jenna Lentini (Middletown, Conn.) followed it minutes later off a cross over the top, but sophomore goalkeeper Allison Rodrigues (North Adover, Mass.), who was dynamite all day, made one of several impressive saves.
After numerous times knocking on the door for USJ, it would be the Rams who would end up scoring first. In the 24th minute, Hunt delivered it past sophomore goalie Lindsey Montminy (Vernon, Conn.) on a well-lifted assist from Lanza. 1-0 SU.
O'Brien was super aggressive for the Rams following the goal, with two solid shots at the cage, but Montminy made the grab each time. The aggression would not be for nothing though, as Hurley capitalized on another great setup, this one in the 32nd minute from the right wing by O'Brien, who picked up the assist. Both Rams goals were the fourth of the season for each respectively.
The Blue Jays tried to get one back before the end of the half. A cross to freshman forward Maxine Muscatello (Berlin, Conn.) in the 41st minute went wide left, while a boot from sophomore midfielder Sierra Romie (Newington, Conn.) from 25 yards out went just over the right side of the crossbar and out of play. The Blue Jays went into the half trailing 2-0.
The best two shots of the second half for the Blue Jays came in the 56th and 60th minute. O'Neill took a pass from left to right to find Muscatello, who sent a header to the middle of the goal, but Rodrigues' hand just smacked it up high enough to send it over the crossbar. Four minutes later, a shot by Gazaferi was deflected by Rodrigues. The backspin on the ball caused it to stop inches from the goal line, but Rams defenders beat the Blue Jays to the spot and sent it out to safety.
Muscatello had another look late in the 83rd minute, hooking the ball from right to left, but it fell right into the hands of Rodruigues. A game of physicality ended with a scoreless second half. The Blue Jays are 0-2-1 against GNAC foes in the top three in the standings this season.
The USJ women's soccer team returns to the pitch for its final home game of 2019, a key GNAC matchup on Wednesday, October 23 versus Emmanuel. Kick-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on the USJ Soccer Field.
Fans can also download the USJ Front Row Mobile App and subscribe to our Newsletter and Text Alerts. #FearTheFlock #GoBlueJays