WASHINGTON TWP. (Morris) _ West Morris' defense was in top-notch form versus Morristown, denying the Colonials again and again and again, especially over the last 12 minutes.
The Wolfpack, spurred by the relentless efforts of sweeper Morgan Schade, backs Jess Gutowski and Claire Caldarola and goalie Emily Egan, succeeded in keeping their persistent opponent off the scoreboard and ensured they'd walk off the field with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
And, according to senior center midfielder Jackie Drzewinski, who also played a significant role in the shutout, that was just a preview.
"This shows what we're capable of," Drzewinski said. "It shows what we can do. That wasn't even our best. We still have a lot to prove."
Handing Morristown, a traditionally strong program, its first setback of the season was an excellent start then. West Morris (6-0) got all the offense it would need when freshman forward Sarah Bietka knocked in the non-conference game's lone goal, her fourth this season, off a corner 6:14 into the opening half.
Sandwiched around the score was outstanding skilled play on both sides. The Colonials put on a furious push late in the second half hoping to pull even and force overtime. With 11:53 remaining, Egan (9 saves) rejected two shots. Several attempts went wide. The ball wound up deep in Morristown territory several times but quickly went back the other way, keeping Schade, Gutowski and Caldarola busy.
The Colonials blanked five opponents and gave up only one goal over its first six games, accumulating 26 goals. Morristown coach Diane DeSalvo gave West Morris credit for its impressive "D."
"Their defense was very good," DeSalvo said. "We had lots of chances and didn't capitalize. I think we played really hard. It was an aggressive game on both sides. West Morris is fast and can move the ball well on their sticks."
Olivia Graham, Devon Colquhoun and Callie Sundin have combined for 19 of Morristown's goals yet could not convert.
"Our defense was really tested today," West Morris coach Courtney Barnett said. "We were able to withstand breakaways and offensive pressure. It's always a battle with Morristown. I have tons of respect for them. They play hard. I knew it would be close. For us to come out on top is good for morale. We need to have short-term memory and to focus on the next one."
Barnett said defense was a question mark going into the season. Positions were undecided. Allison Egan moved to the midfield from left back. Somehow, it quickly came together.
"We strive to make our defense strong and we poured our hearts out," Drzewinski said. "We build up from it. We start from the back and make our way up."
Drzewinski had the assist on Bietka's goal. Skylar Migliaccio put the ball into play, sending it toward Drzewinski stationed on the top of the circle. Drzewinski "shot as hard as I could" and Bietka deflected it toward the left post. From there, the Wolfpack had to send its defensive mindset into overdrive.
"Winning today was really exciting," Bietka said. "We've been working really hard at practice. We had to keep trying to keep the ball out."
Bietka, one of two freshmen on varsity, drew praise from Barnett for earning a spot in the starting lineup.
"Sarah is coachable and puts herself in the right place at the right time," Barnett said. "She's learning quickly and playing well with the others around her."
Morristown is never short on standouts and Colquhoun, the center midfielder, Sundin, the left wing, and sweeper Charlotte Duff excelled. Emely Herrera, who splits time in goal with Gianna Mitchell, played the entire game, rejecting 11 shots.
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