NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - For the second consecutive game, freshman forward Maxine Muscatello (Berlin, Conn.) scored the game-winning goal, lifting the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) women's soccer team to victory, 1-0, over the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Trailblazers on the road Wednesday evening at Shewcroft Field. With the victory, the Blue Jays remain perfect to start the 2019 season and improve to 3-0, while the Trailblazers fall to 0-2.
Both teams had chances in the opening half of play to get into the scoring column, but neither could find the back of the net. The Blue Jays controlled the majority of the possession in the first stanza and held a sizable 13-3 shot advantage over the opening 45 minutes. Yet, the game remained 0-0 heading into halftime.
In the second half, USJ continued to keep up the pressure and control the majority of possession lurking to strike on every attack into MCLA's defensive end. They outshot MCLA 14-4 in the closing half to hold an overall 27-7 shot advantage in the match. Muscatello's late-game heroics served as the difference maker as she provided the lone goal in the 70th minute.
After a failed clear by the Trailblazers, sophomore Ali O'Neill (Litchfield, Conn.) found herself with the ball in the Blue Jays' offensive end and touched a pass out to Muscatello on the left side. Muscatello faked like she was going to carry the ball and drive wide, but instead cut it back toward to middle of the field, and beat the MCLA defender. Then, from about 20 yards out, she launched a high arching shot with her right foot over MCLA's senior keeper Megan Richardson (Adams, Mass.) and into the top right corner of the net. The marker was her team-leading third goal of the season.
MCLA nearly struck first with a golden opportunity seven minutes earlier when senior midfielder Hannah Van De Water (Cambridge, N.Y.) took a cross from sophomore Madeline Gibney (Rensselaer, N.Y.), but hit the crossbar. The Blue Jays were able to eventually clear the ball and keep the game scoreless at the time.
Following the Muscatello strike, the Trailblazers were unable to muster up enough offense over the final 20 minutes of play to pull even and the Blue Jays escaped with their third victory in as many games to start the season.
The sophomore duo of Andrea Pezzullo (Ashaway, R.I.) and Julia Annecchiarico (Ludlow, Mass.) combined for the shutout in goal for USJ. Annecchiarico (1-0) would pick up the win in her first career action between the pipes for the Blue Jays, finishing with one save over the 45 minutes of play. Pezzullo collected three saves, minding the net for the entire first half. MCLA's Richardson (0-2) stopped 10 shots in defeat.
USJ dominated in total shots, 27-7, and shots on goal, 11-4. They also held a slight edge in corner kicks, 7-4.
The Blue Jays christen the brand new turf USJ Soccer Field when they play host to Eastern Nazarene College on Saturday. Kick-off is slated for 12:00 p.m. between the Blue Jays and Lions.