Women’s Soccer Out-Dueled By Fordham In Battle Of The Bronx

by Pete Janny, Asst. Sports Editor

Three games into the season, the Manhattan College women’s soccer team has yet to taste victory. After consecutive road losses to Hartford and Stony Brook, Manhattan (0-3) found themselves on the losing side of things again when the Fordham Rams (1-2) escaped Gaelic Park with a 1-0 victory over the Jaspers last Thursday night.

In a game that featured no shortage of chances for both sides, it was the Rams who secured the decisive game-winning goal in the 79th minute. Having tested Manhattan goalie Camryn Nici for much of the game, the Fordham goal was a long time coming and seemed like a likely blow to Manhattan’s morale. However, much to Manhattan’s credit, the game was kept interesting up until the final horn thanks to a multitude of chances for the Jaspers in the game’s closing minutes.

The first half was characterized by strong defensive play from both teams with neither side able to get on the board in the first 45 minutes. It was a typical performance by Manhattan’s defensive corps as they kept Fordham’s offense scoreless despite the fact that Fordham fired off 14 first-half shots.

The Rams first big chance of the night came in the 25th minute when Fordham midfielder Saige Bingman created some space for herself at the top of box before blasting a shot that was punched over the goal by Nici. The save was just one of ten in total on the night for Nici, who has been nothing short of spectacular for Manhattan in the opening three games of the season. The ten saves she recorded in this game represented a new personal best for the senior goalkeeper.

Despite being outshot 14-3 in the first half, the Jaspers held their own in the first half thanks in large part to the efforts of junior Arianna Montefusco and sophomore Eve Montgomery.

Montefusco, who missed the entire 2018 season due to injury, played a key role for Manhattan’s offense in the first half. The junior midfielder used her lethal foot-skills and passing ability early and often to keep the Fordham defense honest.

If Montefusco played the role of ‘Batman’ in the first half for Manhattan, Montgomery was ‘Robin’. The sophomore midfielder provided a huge boost off the bench for Manhattan by using her speed and physicality to put pressure on Fordham’s back line. That was never more evident than in the 34th minute when Montgomery used a combination of speed and crisp dribbling to single-handedly start a counter-attack for her team in which she dribbled several yards down the middle of the field before being eventually stopped by a sea of red shirts. Although she was ultimately stopped, the play was one of the best highlights of the half.

Fordham threatened again with five minutes left in the half when senior Juliana Mascelli dribbled to the top edge of the box on the left side before unleashing a hard shot that was fisted to safety by Nici.

All in all, Lawler was content with his team’s first-half showing. That’s not to say he didn’t think his offense could’ve been doing more to compliment his team’s defensive success.

“It was a strong defensive effort against a good, hard-working Fordham team,” Lawler said during a half-time interview with Go Jaspers. “If we just keep the ball a little more and create some more chances, we’ll be right there in the end.”

The beginning of the second half saw Fordham subject Nici and the Manhattan defense to even further pressure. A little over a minute into the half, Fordham freshman Kristen Cocozza had a great chance to put her team on top when she was the recipient of a cross into the box from the left side. Her strike would end up nailing the top post before sailing out of bounds for a Manhattan goal kick.

Unfortunately for Manhattan, Cocozza would end up changing the complexion of the game with her offensive creativity.

In the 55th minute, Cocozza led Fordham’s offensive attack again when she sent a beautiful through ball to striker Amanda Miller, but her ensuing shot was corralled easily by Nici to end the threat. Eight minutes later, Cocozza was on the move again when she blasted a shot from just outside the box that was pushed over the net by Nici.On the offensive front, Manhattan was bolstered by the efforts of wingers Tia Painilainen and Bri Floyd. Both players linked up on two separate occasions in the second half that put their team on the verge of taking the first lead of the night.

The first connection came in the 60th minute when Floyd sent in a cross from the right sideline to an open Painilainen at the top of the box. Unfortunately, the Finnish native’s ensuing shot went wide of the target, adding a another layer of suspense in the search for the game-winning goal.

Three minutes later, both players linked up again when Painilaien’s cross from the left side landed in the lower right corner of the box where Floyd was lingering. Due to the adverse angle at which she was standing and the rapid development of the play, Floyd ended up powering her one-time shot over the goal.

Fordham would finally end the scoring drought in the 80th minute with Cocozza doing the honors. After a cross by Morgan Busacca from the right sideline and a deflection off of Margaret Roughley, Cocozza gained possession of the ball in the box and buried it to put the Rams on top for good. The goal was the first of the freshman’s collegiate career and the fact that it came in her first ever ‘Battle of the Bronx’ probably made it feel extra sweet.

Although they would ultimately fail to score the equalizer, Manhattan played a commendable final ten minutes to make things interesting. The aftermath of Fordham’s go-ahead goal featured some of Manhattan’s best chances of the game.

Montefusco was heavily involved with her team’s furious charge to the finish as she had two header attempts, each coming via set-piece kicks, that could’ve easily tied the score. Manhattan’s last chance came in the final minute of play when a Gemma Perez free-kick from just shy of midfield led to a one-time shot at the top of the box from Bri DeLeo that was blocked by a wall of Fordham defenders before trickling out of bounds. A few Manhattan players pleaded to the referee that DeLeo’s shot had hit off the hand of a Fordham defender, but to no avail.

Based on the visiting team’s significant advantages in both shots, 24-12, and corner kicks, 10-3, there’s no doubt they deserved to prevail in the end. To add insult to injury for Manhattan,  Thursday’s night loss extended the program’s losing streak against the Rams to five games.

Despite the undesirable result, Lawler was appreciative of both the energy of his players and the Manhattan fans.

“Fordham’s a great team and it’s always a fun atmosphere when we play them,” Lawler said in a post-game interview with Go Jaspers. “The effort was fantastic and we are much further ahead than were last year at this point so the future is bright.”

Next up for Manhattan is a home tilt against St. Francis Brooklyn on Friday, September 6th. Kick-off is set for 7 PM at Gaelic Park.