Monroe girls shooting for division co-championship

Falcons 9-4-1 following victory over Spotswood


The Monroe Township High School girls soccer team, fresh off a 4-0 win over Spotswood in the first round of the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Tournament, is facing a big week.

This afternoon, the Falcons will square off against the winner of Tuesday’s Sayreville J.P. Stevens clash in the second round of the GMC. On Saturday, Monroe faces Perth Amboy in its final GMC White Division game this season. A victory would make the Falcons co-division champs along with Woodbridge.

Monroe dominated Spotswood on Monday to come away with a 4-0 triumph. Danielle Klecha scored a pair of goals for the winners and Nikki Meyers added a goal and an assist and Rosa Buffalino contributed two assists.

In regular season games, Monroe bested Stevens, but lost a pair of overtime games to Sayreville. Those losses proved costly in the White Division, as the Falcons downed Woodbridge twice.

Coach Kathy Dillon’s team has played well in several non-division games, as well. The Falcons battled powerful Scotch Plains- Fanwood before falling 2-1, and lost an overtime match to South Brunswick, also by a 2-1 count. Monroe went up against Piscataway and came away with a scoreless tie after two overtime sessions.

“The girls have a lot of heart and good chemistry,” Dillon said. “They know they’re all in this together and they look out for each other. It’s been a pleasure to coach this team.”

Last fall, Dillon’s team was hampered by injuries but still managed to post a 10-10 record. Thus far this season, Monroe is 9-4- 1 and the Falcons have also qualified for the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV tournament.

“We lost several key players from last year’s team to graduation and I think the girls were concerned about whether we’d be as good as we were last year,” Dillon added.

With a starting lineup that regularly includes 11 seniors, Monroe is certainly making its mark. The defense, led by goalie Sam Callarine, has six shutouts, while the offense has shown balance.

With speedy Vanessa Ragucci, now in her fourth year, at sweeper, the Monroe defense is experienced and smart. Ragucci has plenty of help in Stephanie Nawracaz, a talented marking back, and Savannah Nunn, who played as a sophomore before her family moved to California a year ago. Fortunately, for the Falcons Nunn’s family moved back. Junior Ali Deitche is the top reserve.

“We built this team from the back up,” Dillon explained. “A lot of people overlook defense, but we believe that preventing the other team from scoring is just as important as scoring. Some of our best players are on defense.

Meyers, who leads the team with nine goals, and Klecha pretty much run things from their midfield posts. Meyers is a strong two-way player, while Klecha excels at making quick passes to set up offensive opportunities for her teammates. Jennifer Garavente augments her fellow midfielders with strong positional play.

Buffalino, Tricia Powell, Jenna Saunders and junior spark plug Ashley Kelly are the forwards. Saunders and Buffalino have five goals apiece and Kelly comes off the bench to provide energy.

The Falcons have a deep bench that includes junior fullbacks Sara Nale and Caitlin Tehan along with midfielders Alexa Appignani and Nicole Russo. Dillon also weaves in sophomores Valentina Pannullo, Tori Clayton, Caroline Faraoni and Emily Jarosiewicz, as well as two promising freshmanAshley Battista and Caitlin James. JuniorMadisonMarkulin is the back-up goalie.

“We wanted to make sure we came out strong against Spotswood,” Dillon said. “That kind of sets the tone now we just have to maintain that level of play.”

Once the GMC tourney is over, the Falcons have non-conference games with Old Bridge and South Plainfield before the state tournament gets under way on Nov. 3.