Steinert Goalie Gemma Goldenbaum makes 1 of her 7 saves against Nottingham. Photo by Michael A. Sabo.
On a beautiful fall night under the lights, with a few hundred vocal fans watching, Nottingham and Steinert girls varsity put on a high energy show that oozed with intensity from the first whistle to the final horn. When it was all said and done, Steinert walked away with a 4-1 victory.
It was much closer than the score showed.
Coming into the night, Steinert and Coach Mike Hastings were faced with the challenge – how do you contain reigning CVC Player of the Year Gia Girman and her 18 goals in 9 games?
Answer: build a wall with Amanda Papamanolis, Morgan Hart, Nicole Pappas, and Sophia Laico.
“The coaches wanted me to remain on her the whole game, without giving her an opportunity to have any break always and to push her to her weaker side, “ said Papamanolis after the game. “In the first half, we were shaky – but in the second we relaxed and played our game. We were able to all work together and shut her down.”
With Papamanolis marking Girman the entire game, Pappas and Hart were able to provide support on the backside, while Laico covered the far end, keeping fellow Northstars Gabi Girman and Emily Midura at bay.
The strategy worked well in the first half, with the only goal in the first 40 minutes coming off a Steinert corner kick that bounced around in the box before being buried into the back of the net by senior Maddie Klein in the 13th minute.
While the Spartans (7-2-1) controlled the ball the majority of the first half, Nottingham was able to make a number of runs on the counter that had the fans in green and white holding their breath. Sophomore goalkeeper Gemma Goldenbaum made a couple of dazzling saves, rushing out of the goal to close the gap and prevent Girman and crew from tying the score. Goldenbaum would finish with 7 saves on the night.
“Gemma has had a big impact on our team these last few games,“ added Papamanolis. “She is constantly working hard and has proven to everyone that she has earned her role on this team.”
Goldenbaum was just happy to come away with the team win. “For both varsity [boys and girls] teams to win under the lights tonight, that was magical,” she said. “My defense was great. Just so happy they were able to contain her [Girman] and not let her through.
Girman would finally break through the defense for a beautiful, powerful equalizer that whizzed past Goldenbaum ten minutes into the second half, bringing the Northstar fans back to life. At that moment, it looked as if the Battle of Klockner Road would be neck and neck to the very end, but the Spartans turned up the offensive pressure and wore down the Northstar defense, thanks in large part to Margarita Ivanova.
The senior golden-toed wonder placed two kicks into the net, her second with 11:13 left in the game that seemed to take the wind out of Nottingham’s sails.
For Ivanova, the atmosphere on the pitch was definitely heightened, and that – along with Coach Hastings’ adjustments – made the ultimate difference.
“It was crazy, it’s everything we’ve anticipated. We knew there’d be a lot of people coming out and it definitely brought up everybody’s energy.”
It was a total team win against a high quality opponent.
“We talked about locking down Gia in a different way, pushing her to one of her sides and Amanda definitely did a great job – and Morgan and Nicole and Brielle [Spadola] were all covering her. Oh my gosh – it was amazing how they played. There was no getting passed them.”