In two prior meetings with their crosstown rivals from J.P. Stevens, the Edison High School girls soccer team hadn’t managed a single goal. In the most recent of the matchups, one goal was enough to knock the Eagles out of the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament, but on Monday morning, Edison turned the tables.
A goal from Nataly Suarez in the 43rd minute broke the ice on a chilly day and fifth-seeded Edison withstood a furious rally late to emerge victorious 1-0 in the first round of the NJSIAA North 2 Group IV Tournament. The Eagles advanced to Thursday’s quarterfinals, where they’ll meet fourth-seeded Bridgewater-Raritan.
Goalkeeper Kaitlin Marold stepped up with her best performance of the season, making 20 saves to pitch the shutout. Twelfth-seeded J.P. Stevens turned up the pressure once Suarez tipped home a crossing pass from Amy Dworsky for the Eagles’ first goal against a GMC opponent since Oct. 10, but Marold was there to come up big time after time.
“I just knew that I had my teammates on my side and I couldn’t let my team down; that’s what drives me to play this game and that’s what drove me to not let that goal in. I couldn’t let everyone down because that’s not who I am,” Marold said.
J.P. Stevens’ best chances came when Hannah Harkay broke out on a pair of breakaways five minutes apart in the second half, but Marold stoned Harkay with a pair of diving saves. The Hawks had two more quality chances in the final moments and finished with 14 shots, but their shots were just off the mark each time.
“I think the girls came out ready to play and ready to win,” Edison head coach Leanne Rubiano said. “We’ve prepared for two weeks in practice for what J.P. Stevens does and we’ve wanted to win this game so badly and I think we deserved it after the way we played and I’m really proud of the girls.”
The two teams didn’t have a regular season matchup scheduled all season long, but decided to lock horns in the days leading up to the GMCT’s first round last month. J.P. Stevens took both games by a combined score of 3-0, but Marold said that she and her teammates learned a good deal and applied it Monday.
“We knew about their set pieces and we knew that they’re really aggressive, so we planned for that and we worked hard from being able to score on us,” she said.
Rubiano agreed with her goalkeeper, but knew that scoring was the only remedy for the spell that J.P. Stevens had cast on her squad.
“I think it was a huge morale boost and a huge confidence boost for our team. We’ve had a lot of opportunities against J.P. in the three games we’ve played against them now and we haven’t been able to score,” Rubiano said. “It was huge that we were finally able to break through that barrier and got over that hump.”