Soccer is not a sport in which a lot of goals need to be scored to win a match.
The fact the Monroe Township High School’s girls soccer team has found the net an average of 3 ½ times a game is a major reason why the Falcons have posted a 6-3 record and still have a chance to defend their Greater Middlesex Conference White Division title.
The Falcons had been in the driver’s seat a week ago, but a 4-3 loss to Sayreville on Saturday followed by a 2-0 shutout by South Plainfield has landed them in third place behind the Bombers and Tigers. There are five matches remaining, including a return meeting with South Plainfield on Oct. 15, in order for the Falcons to get back into the race.
When the regular season concludes, the GMC and NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournaments commence, which requires an entirely different philosophy. Each tournament is played in a single-elimination format. That often means teams shift from a wide-open offense to a more defenseoriented approach.
Until then, Monroe is relying on its attack, which has resulted in 27 goals being scored, with all but one coming from four players. Sophomore forward Ashley Batista leads the scoring parade with 13 goals and an assist, and has emerged as one of the top threats in the conference. Senior midfielder Demi Rousseau has notched six goals to go with three assists, junior midfielder Eva Vastardis has four goals and four assists, and junior midfielder Taylor Evanchik has three goals and two assists. The other goal belongs to sophomore forward Jessica McDonald.
Freshman Erica Junquet is the starting goaltender and has made 49 saves.
Other members of the varsity include seniors Valentina Pannullo and Dana Somers, forwards; Carolina Faraone and Caitlan James, defenders; and Kerry McCabe and Tori Clayton, midfielders. The other junior is defender Emily Jarosiewicz. The sophomores are Tatiana Santo, Frannie Esteves, Amber Kelly, Stephanie Pasewaldt and Lucia Fernandez.
While the concentration of scoring has come from Batista, Rousseau, Vastardis and Evanchik, coach Kathy Dillon contends the reason why the Falcons have enjoyed success this season is the way the younger players have developed.
“We lost a lot of leadership from last year’s seniors,” says Dillon, in her 10th season. “We started the fall with a mix of young players. However, we have developed great chemistry. Everybody knows their roles.”
When the tournaments start, that chemistry will become more important since the power in the GMC continues to be larger-school Red Division teams such as East Brunswick and South Brunswick.
Monroe marched into the GMC Tournament last year with high expectations and recalls all too well the 7-0 spanking administered by East Brunswick.
This year, Dillon hopes, will be different.
“Our offense has produced goals, and the defense has worked hard in front of Erica,” says Dillon. “The girls have developed a great work ethic, team pride and chemistry on and off the field. They are determined to give everything to represent themselves, their team and the school.”
The Falcons traveled to Spotswood on Tuesday, Oct. 4, and are at Perth Amboy today.