DUDLEY, Mass. - The University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's soccer team soared past the Nichols College (NC) Bison, 4-1, on Vendetti Field Sunday afternoon. Freshman Maxine Muscatello (Berlin, Conn.) netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner, to power the Blue Jays to victory. With the win, USJ remains undefeated to start the 2019 season and improves to 2-0-0, while the Bison slip to 1-1-0.
The Blue Jays picked up right where they left off after recording a 2-0 victory in their season opener on Friday over Manhattanville and once again it was the freshman class making a big impact for USJ. This time it was Muscatello, a 5-3 rookie product of Berlin, who would lead the way getting the Blue Jays on the board early and often in the first half.
Muscatello logged her first collegiate goal just 6:18 into her second career match to give USJ an early 1-0 advantage. It would be a freshman-to-freshman connection as Olivia Belcourt (Cromwell, Conn.), who netted the game-winner in Friday's opener, slipped a pass out wide right as Muscatello charged into the box. With a tough angle, Muscatello fired on net anyway and her shot was just high enough as it clipped the fingertips of Nichols' sophomore goalkeeper Oliva Marcantonio (North Smithfield, R.I.) and caromed into the back of the net.
Muscatello wasted little time to strike again collecting her second goal of the game eight minutes later. As the clock crept into the 14th minute, the Bison fouled the Blue Jays trying to stop a counter attack deep in the USJ defensive zone. Sophomore Ali O'Neill stepped up to take the free kick and the lefty boomed it down field. The long ball was perfectly placed and bounced to a streaking Muscatello who snuck behind the Bison defensive line and she finished brilliantly in the bottom left corner past a diving Marcantonio for what would eventually stand as the game-winner.
The Blue Jays kept their foot on the pedal and built a 3-0 cushion in the 20th minute on the first goal of the season by O'Neill. Once again, the Bison committed a foul on the Blue Jays as a Nichols defender knocked over sophomore Rylee Snow (West Greenwich, R.I.) as she was driving into the penalty area. The referee awarded USJ's free kick just outside the 18-yard box and sophomore Ariana Gazaferi (Southington, Conn.) lined up her attempt. However, instead of firing around the NC wall, she instinctively laid off a pass a few yards to her right to the left-footed O'Neill who ripped a curling shot into the upper ninety.
The Bison got on the board in 38th minute after sophomore Amalia Sessoms (Manchester, Conn.) scored on a free kick from 20 yards out, directly after the Blue Jays' sophomore goalkeeper Lindsey Montminy (Vernon, Conn.) received a red card after taking out Sessoms on a breakaway attempt. In came USJ's backup keeper sophomore Andrea Pezzullo (Ashaway, R.I.) faced with a tough task in her first action between the pipes. Sessoms converted drilling a shot right over Pezzullo to trim the Saint Joseph lead to 3-1 and that would remain the margin heading into halftime.
Despite being a player down for the final 52 minutes of the match, the Blue Jays locked in defensively and wouldn't allow the Bison to get any closer. Instead, USJ would add onto its lead and put the game away in the 63rd minute on the first goal of 2019 from Snow. Just seconds before with 61:53 showing on the clock, Snow sent a shot off the crossbar that nearly ricocheted down and across the goal line. She would get her redemption though at 62:23 when sophomore defender Jenna Banta (Montville, Conn.) launched a long ball down field and Snow outran the NC defense, flicked it with her left foot past a rushing Marcantonio, and trickled it into the back of the net.
USJ would maintain the 4-1 edge for the remainder of the match and walked away with the victory in the first-ever meeting between the Blue Jays and the Bison to keep their perfect record in tack to start the season.
Montminy (2-0-0) picked up the win in goal for the Blue Jays and made five saves in just 37:06 before exiting the match. Pezzullo came on in relief and made four stops to preserve the lead over the final 52:54. Marcantonio (1-1-0) was dealt the loss finishing with six saves in a complete game effort.
Both teams were dead even in total shots with 16 and shots on goal with 10. The Blue Jays held a distinct advantage in corner kicks, 9-3.
USJ returns to the pitch on Wednesday with a midweek non-conference match at MCLA. Kick-off is slated for 5:00 p.m. between the Blue Jays and Trailblazers.