With Thursday’s Union County Conference Watchung Division varsity girls soccer game getting out of hand early, both teams had a larger picture to focus on at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School.
For the host Raiders, who got goals from six different players to notch a 7-0 victory over New Providence and improve to 6-0, the important thing to remember was no matter what the scoreboard said, they had to keep playing their game and keep doing the things that had carried them to the undefeated start.
“You just try to keep on working on the positive things that you’ve talked about,” coach Kevin Ewing said. “You don’t want bad habits to develop,”
There were plenty of good habits on display, especially in the opening half when the Raiders outshot the Pioneers 17-0 and built a 6-0 lead as Corina Ceccio scored twice and Christy Monroy added a goal and an assist. And while the Raiders certainly turned down the pressure in the second half, they still played their game and displayed the defensive soccer that’s allowed just two goals all season and will be key in their quest for their third straight Union County title and, they hope, a sectional crown.
“There’s always room for improvement and that’s what we keep on saying” said Ewing, who also watched Christine Miklas, Katie Harper, Paige VanBuskirk and Tori Baliatico score goals. “Just because we have been doing well so far, those other teams are going to be gunning for us the second time around (through the conference). We constantly talk about the things we can improve on and what we have to do to get better. We want to do well in the regular season, but you also want to do well in the playoffs.”
For New Providence, which moved up to the Watchung Division after dominating the Mountain Division the past three seasons and winning two straight state Group I crowns, this year has been a struggle. Not only has the competition increased, exponentially, but the Pioneers have also suffered a rash of injuries, including a torn ACL for senior striker Alex Schlobohm, who is widely considered their top player.
New Providence played the overwhelming majority of Thursday’s game in its own defensive third and actually did a great job disrupting the Raiders attack during the first 12 minutes of the game before SPF reeled off three goals in a five-minute span. The Pioneers didn’t tally their only shot until 18 minutes were left in the contest.
Still, the important thing for the Pioneers, coach Scott Murphy said, is for his team not to sulk and lose focus when it gets behind, something he said happened at times Thursday. Borrowing a phrase Murphy said he took from New York Giants coach Tom Coughlan, he said the important thing was for his team to learn from each match, and ‘build a bridge’ from game to game.
New Providence (1-4) has been outscored 17-5 after not having lost more than four games in a season since dropping five in 2006, and went 18-2 last season. Still, the Pioneers are keeping their heads up.
“The camaraderie is great, the energy is great,” Murphy said. “There’s no finger pointing, there’s no dissention. I still believe they all think that once we get to that second season, which is the next time through this group, and then to the third season, which is the state, if we keep building that bridge forward we’ll have a shot of knocking