EAST HANOVER _ In the fall of 2014, Hanover Park put itself on the New Jersey soccer map by capturing its first sectional title. Now the Hornets are determined to make this year's run just as memorable.
First-half goals by Gabrielle Barquin, Sam Defina and Anna Lazur, each scored within in a six-minute span, lifted Hanover Park to a 3-0 triumph over Madison in the quarterfinal round of the North Jersey Section 2, Group II state tournament on Thursday, Nov. 5.
Goalkeeper Jill Carille stopped nine shots to gain the shutout for the Hornets. Hanover Park (12-7-1) advances to play sister school Whippany Park in a game tentatively scheduled for Monday, Nov. 8.
Madison finishes its season at 7-9-2. Hanover Park had a win and a tie against the Dodgers during the regular season. Hanover Park used its possession game and a peerless defensive effort to advance on its home grass field.
Last year, the Hornets gave their school a soccer identity. This year, they would be very pleased to build on that success.
"It's been a good year," Lazur said. "We've had some rough patches, maybe losing to teams we shouldn't have, but we always come out when we need to."
Against Madison, the Hanover Park players knew what they were up against. The Hornets relied on their game plan and made good use of their scoring opportunities to defeat a neighboring rival.
It was a well-placed goal by Barquin that triggered the three-goal barrage before the end of the first half. Her long-range shot came off a pass from Gianna Zarra.
"I was at the top of the 18," Barquin said. "I saw an open shot so I took it. I'm a lefty and I aimed it for the right corner. My immediate reaction was to shoot. I was right in front of the goal."
The timing of her score couldn't have been better for the Hornets.
"It was nice to have the first goal to pump up the team," Barquin said. "Once we get a goal, we get more energy to come back out."
She connected in the 36th minute to give the Hornets a boost.
"Gabby started on JV last year and we pulled her up. It was one of the best coaching decisions we made," Hanover Park coach Erin Shane said. "She is really calm on the ball and she is great at placing shots."
When the Hornets score, they have been known to feed off the energy that a goal can bring. Two minutes later, Defina made it 2-0. She took a pass out wide. Her left-foot shot to the far post deflected off a Madison defender and was redirected into the net.
Defina, a senior who did not play on the soccer team last year, is a timely scorer.
"She has been a great addition," Shane said. "She has put in some awesome goals over the course of the season. She scored for us against West Morris. One of the five goals they let up all season. She is a hard, hard worker."
Defender Lazur made it a three-goal game. A county sprinting standout who cleans up on the defensive end, Lazur pushed forward and shocked the Dodgers by dribbling through three defenders in Madison's flat-back-four and putting in a shot to the low left corner of the net just before halftime to make it 3-0.
"Our coach was telling me to push up a little bit," Lazur said. "I hate defense. One of our girls had a throw in and played it into our freshman Alyssa (Viegas) and I called for the ball. She flicked it over, I took one or two touches and shot it to the back post."
Lazur is a forward on her club team. Her teammate in the back, Ally DeRiggi, also has experience at forward. Knowing the mentality of a goal scorer can only help players in their efforts to defend.
"I wish I had 12 of Anna," Shane said. "Forwards who play defense are able to see where potential opportunities are. They know when someone is trying to go far post. They know if someone is looking for a through (ball). Being able to see where those offensive opportunities are really helps us out."
The trio of goals was more than enough for the defense to handle. Lazur and DeRiggi direct a defense which includes Taylor Bermingham, Gia Maffuci and Claire McNally and Camille Carnevale.
Although the Dodgers did have scoring opportunities, most of them were either ably handled by Carille or not dangerous enough to threaten the goal.
The Hornets have the weekend to prepare for Whippany Park but, as the second seed, they will have the advantage of playing at home and the determination to capture another title on their minds.
"Before last year, in the school's entire existence, they never won anything for girls soccer," Barquin said. "When we won sectionals, it was the first time ever and it was a really good feeling. This year we are doing really well. It's given us a better reputation. We're proving people wrong."