O ne of these seasons, the soccer ball is going to take all the right bounces, the rest of pieces are going to fall into place, and the Metuchen High School girls are going to win a state championship.
The Bulldogs have come close on a number of occasions, winning multiple sectional titles and reaching the NJSIAA Group I championship game as well, but they have yet to capture the grand prize.
“We have a returning crew who has been part of our deep postseason run the last three seasons,” said Val Gazda, veteran coach and architect of Metuchen’s accomplishments on the pitch. “This group would love to leave with a championship under their belts.”
No doubt the Bulldogs will be in the mix again when the state tournament begins the first week of November, but until then they will keep focused, especially this week, on a number of upcoming Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) matches, which will give one of three teams the upper hand in the Blue Division race.
The Bulldogs (7-1 division, 8-1 overall) suffered their only loss to a division foe, Wardlaw-Hartridge School (6-1 division, 7- 1 overall) but had a chance to redeem themselves with a visit to the Rams Oct. 5. Two days later, Metuchen is home to Spotswood High School (8-0 division, 8-1 overall) the current first-place team. Victories in those games would significantly increase Metuchen’s chances of winning the division.
Regardless of that race, Gazda has always scheduled late-season matches against larger non-division schools in order to prepare her team for the state tournament. The Bulldogs face North Brunswick High School (Oct. 15) and South Plainfield High School (Oct. 17) and if they advance in the GMC Tournament, which starts in two weeks, they will undoubtedly face additional large school opponents.
Metuchen is led by seniors Alexa Craft- Zaletel (goalkeeper, six shutouts) who is playing in place of Emily Buchanan, out with a concussion, Carly Taylor (defense), Emily Costello (defense/forward), Taylor Heuston (midfield, three goals, two assists), Katharine Chura (forward, 11 goals, three assists), Hannah Santus (forward, three goals, two assists), Alison Davideit (midfield/ forward), and Julia Rocker (defense/ midfield).
Juniors Alana Benderly and Tracy Michalski play defense, while sophomores Molly Walters (midfield/defense, five goals, four assists), Rory Josell (forward, seven goals, three assists), Drew Schuchman (defense), Hope Kenny (midfield), Skye Nowicki (midfield) and Kendall Schuchman (midfield, three assists) have been effective contributors. Freshman Mya Stolarski (midfield, two goals, four assists) also sees playing time.
“In addition to our quality goalkeeping,” said Gazda, “our defense has come up big and we’ve received scoring from a number of players. Our midfield is also doing a great job connecting the defense with the forwards.”
The Edison High School girls’ soccer team is currently 5-5 (division and overall) and wedged in the middle of the White Division standings.
“We have a great team that plays well together,” said coach Leanne Rubiano.
“The division is very competitive with evenly matched teams, and most of our games have been close.”
The top goal scorer is junior forward
Felicia Forsythe (14 goals). The defense has been led by three seniors, Gabrielle da
Silva, Julia Hoover, and Gayathri Vijayakumar. The goaltender is freshman
Kendra Candido (58 saves).
Junior Elena Elias (three goals, two assists), freshman Gabrielle Moreno (three goals), and sophomore Monica Roca
(three assists) have also contributed to the scoring. Others seeing playing time are senior Martina Sota, sophomore Rachel Weber and freshman Maathanki Vijayakumar.
“The key for the rest of the season,” said Rubiano, “is to finish offensively and stay tough defensively. We need to play our game, communicate, be hungry for the ball, and win.”
The J.P. Stevens High School girls soccer team has encountered some real tough teams in the Red Division. In six losses, the Hawks have been outscored 27-1, and their overall record is 2-7.
Head coach Lisa Dato says the goal this season is to mold a large group of youthful talent into confident, skilled players, who can lead the Hawks to better success in future seasons.
“Our objective is to continue working hard in every game and practice,” she said. “That’s how we’ll improve as the season progresses.”
As evidenced by the goal differential in Red Division matches, scoring has been a problem. The team leader in goals is senior forward Samantha Dzema with three. The remaining goals have come from four others: freshman forward Ava Dul, sophomore forward Mikhayla Sabo, junior midfielder Kinjal Shah, and sophomore defender Serena Zilli.
Senior Prachi Sinha has not scored; Dato says she has become a crucial part of the defense while Zilli has transitioned from forward to also solidify the backline. The coach also says Shah returned from an injury riddled 2014 to become the Hawks’ center midfielder and has helped control the offensive flow.
Both Edison and Stevens participate in the Skills and Drills clinic, which has become one of the township’s top-drawing events for children who play soccer for the Edison United Soccer Association.