Steinerts Giana “G” Pittaro and Michaela Miranda celebrate after Miranda scored the 3rd goal in the CJ III Quarterfinal game. Photo by Amanda Ruch Photography
By Rich Fisher
Nov. 2: It has become as much fun to watch the Steiner girls’ soccer team defend, as it is to watch the Spartans score goals.
Although the Cowell Field “one-goal rule” was in effect again tonight, it was still another outstanding effort in the back as 2nd-seeded Steinert defeated 7th-seeded Lawrence, 3-1, in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinal at Veterans Park.
Steinert is 4-0 on Cowell Field this year, but has allowed a goal in each game. Of its eight goals allowed, four have been at Cowell. The Spartans (18-1-2) have 15 shutouts in 17 games away from Veterans Park.
But the bottom line is, no one really cares that 16 slipped away, since the Spartans are moving on to a semifinal match against 6th-seeded Toms River East, an upset winner over Burlington Township. The game will be Monday at either Steinert or Cowell, at a time to be decided.
“It was a cheap goal tonight, but we were pretty solid,” senior back Kristen Pirrocco said. “Me and Gabby (DeLisa) work really well together. I usually cover their striker up top and Gabby usually does my cover. And I think our outside backs did a really good job getting up and clearing the ball up.”
“As the game went on they started to get more confidence,” coach Mike “Stinger” Hastings said. “Our outside backs are starting to get into the offense. That’s what we want to see, we want to get the ball wide, do things like that.”
Those backs are Tatiana Dorner and junior Chloe Zoldi, and they helped limit Lawrence to just one shot on goal until the Cards scored with 1:18 remaining.
“We just have great chemistry together,” said Zoldi, who apparently has a very difficult name to spell according to Steinert teacher James “The Mayor” Angelino. “We figured from the beginning if we worked together we could be better. We just keep talking, keep communicating with each other. We just have to work together to be better.”
Ironically, Lawrence took the night’s first shot on goal, which was handled easily by keeper Erika Golik. The Spartans struggled to get into an offensive rhythm early, which may have been a hangover from Monday’s non-competitive first-round win over Westampton Tech.
Photos by Amanda Ruch Photography
“It could have been, we were all really laid back in that game,” Zoldi said. “We came out a little laid back and then we realized this wasn’t Westampton, we realized we had to start playing harder.”
“It’s kind of an odd way to come into a game after you’re emptying your bench to get everybody in on Monday,” coach Mike “Stinger” Hastings said. “It took them a while to get into the rhythm today.”
Once they did, they took control.
Giana “G” Pittaro, got things started when she took a pass from Casey Grehan and scored on a hard shot from the left flank.
It stayed 1-0 into the second half and the Cardinals (9-9-1) got their best opportunity when Vicky Wierzbowicz was sprung on a through ball. Golik came out to dive on the ball before Wierzbowicz could get a good foot on it.
With 31 minutes left Pittaro sent a cross into the box that bounced around before Lynzie “Lou” Morgan slotted it for a 2-0 lead. Ashley “The Hawk” Navarro was given an assist on the goal
Less than four minutes later, Pittaro hit the post with a shot and Michaela Miranda nailed the rebound to make it 3-0 and pretty much put it away.
Lawrence coach Emily Palumbo was gracious in defeat.
“They’re a great team, they haven’t lost since September,” Palumbo said. “We knew it would be a great challenge and we just wanted to come in and play our best.”
Next up for the Spartans is Toms River East out of the tough Shore Conference. The Raiders are 12-4-1 and have a 31-goal scorer in Jillian Conklin. But Steinert will present her with a challenge as the Spartans are playing with the confidence of winners.
“It’s experience, which is invaluable,” Hastings said. “You have that experience to win big games at big times and you find a way to win in the counties. Hopefully that can carry over into the state tournament; and it has so far.”
Zoldi is happy to see a quality team from outside Mercer County.
“When we play teams in the MCT we know a lot of those girls,” she said. “In these games we can open up to new challenges when we play different teams.”
Pirrocco is just happy to experience this kind of run during her final high school season.
“It’s so much fun,” she said. “It’s crazy. Especially senior year. I love it.”