Junior midfielder Kelly Egan knocked in a pair of first-half goals to give West Essex a 2-0 triumph over Hanover Park in the opening round of North Jersey Section 2, Group II play on Wednesday, Nov. 2, under the Knights' lights. The contest was originally scheduled for Monday but was delayed two days because of the aftereffects of the October snowstorm that paralyzed most of Northern New Jersey this week.
Goalkeeper Amanda Masterson earned a shutout on two saves for the Knights (8-9). West Essex travels to top-seeded Lyndhurst today which earned a first-round bye.
Tag-team goalies Chrissie Amendola and Lizzie Kiernan shared 10 saves for Hanover Park (5-8-1).
It was an unusual season for the Hornets, who played in an inconsistent manner and never could get on a roll.
"We just didn't get any continuity going,'' Hanover Park coach Kate Daidone said. "We played seven games the first two weeks and then we only played seven the rest of the way. Every time we thought we got a rhythm going, it would fall apart. We haven't been able to play outside in a week.''
Like many teams, the Hornets didn't have a proper practice since the snow fell on Saturday. Although they have a couple of regular season games to be rescheduled, it is uncertain whether the team will see the field again because of the job the weather has done on the Hanover Park grass fields.
Despite their record, senior midfielder Christina LoConte and many of the other Hornets saw plenty of positives for the season.
"We worked hard overall,'' LoConte said. "Every game didn't go the way we wanted to but I think we had a good season. I'm proud of everybody. The younger players are good and I believe they could really improve if they play as a team and work hard. Things could have worked out differently for us. No one likes to lose but I think we did well.''
The Hornets went out on a good note. They won balls, battled in the midfield and forced West Essex to play the full 80 minutes. Their effort impressed Knights' coach Brian McKnight.
"We used to be in their conference,'' McKnight said. "I don't consider anybody an underdog now. Once we got the first (goal) we seemed a little bit more confident in what we were doing. They played hard right to the last minute. We didn't want to leave them hanging around.''
However, they had no answers for Egan. The junior midfielder rocketed in goals in the 35th and 38th minutes to spot her team a 2-0 advantage at halftime.
"She's a great player,'' McKnight said. "She really holds the ball well for us. She's one of those girls that plays 12 months a year at a very high level. This is her third year on varsity. She always seems to rise to the occasion.''
The first goal was particularly impressive. It was a righty half volley from the top of the box that seemed perfectly placed in the back of the Hanover Park net.
"(Egan) has great composure,'' McKnight added. "She sees the field better than most of the girls on the team. She keeps her head in the game and plays smart all the time.''
Hanover Park tried to be more aggressive in the second half which forced second-half keeper Lizzie Kiernan to step up to the challenge of West Essex counterattacks. The sophomore responded with six saves including a couple of difficult ones to keep the Hornets in striking distance.
"She's crazy,'' LoConte said. "She dives for everything. We're lucky to have her.''
Plenty of young players gained experience for the Hornets this season. Although the soccer balls are headed for the closet for the rest of the year, the future looks bright for the Hornets.
"We saw some really nice things from our young kids today,'' Daidone said. "Our sub forwards got some great opportunities. Our backup center midfielder (Kaleigh Hinton) has been playing really well. I also thought the seniors left everything they had out there so you have to give them credit, too.''