NJIT and visiting Howard each entered their women’s soccer game Friday night with their collective eyes on significant team accomplishments. However, neither team got quite what it wanted in a 1-1 tie on Lubetkin Field at Mal Simon Stadium.
For NJIT (7-10-1), the prize was an eighth win, which would surpass the best wins total since the program began Division I competition in 2005. The Highlanders have one more shot at that milestone when they host Delaware State in the season finale on Wednesday at 7 pm.
For Howard (6-7-2), which completed its 2013 schedule on Friday, the prize was a .500 record. The Lady Bison, who won four in a row from October 7 to October 22 to reach the .500 mark at 6-6-1, were unable to go beyond that.
Last Sunday in Washington, DC, Howard’s hopes of a winning record were dashed when NJIT won 1-0 on a goal with 17 seconds left in regulation. And in Friday’s rematch, Howard’s hopes of a .500 finish were denied after 110 minutes of 1-1 soccer.
NJIT took the lead in the 41st minute on a rebound goal by senior Camille Billing, her second of the season, assisted by Megan Dellavalle.
Howard got level at 64:13, when Sydney Ross head in a pass by Carmen Suarez off of a free kick. The goal was the third of the year from Ross, a senior playing in her last college game.
NJIT outshot the visitors, 12-7, including 8-3 in shots on goal. The corner kick totals favored the Highlanders, 8-2.
Junior Kyra Dickinson stopped seven shots for Howard, while NJIT goalkeeper Samantha Bersett stopped two shots.
Aside from the 1-0 result in what was a scoreless game for nearly 90 minutes at Howard last weekend the latest result was not surprising. Neither side scores much or concedes much. NJIT came in with 15 total goals in 17 games and Howard had 20 goals in 14 games, but half that total came in a 10-0 blowout of Division II Washington Adventist. On defense, NJIT had yielded 5 combined goals in its previous 6 games, while Howard had surrendered just two total goals in its previous 5 contests.
“With the fact that it was (Howard’s) last game and they had a chance to be .500 and the way last week’s game ended, we figured they would come out hard,” said NJIT coach Mandi Risden. “I don’t think we matched that early, but we got that first goal. It just wasn’t enough in the end.”
After coming up short on several early chances, the Highlanders finally broke through at 40:39. Billing, one of four NJIT seniors honored in pregame ceremonies, knocked in a rebound from the doorstep. The original shot, taken by Dellavalle, was saved by Howard’s Dickinson but the ball squirted loose into a group of nearby Highlanders and Billing tucked it in.
Billing who has battled injuries the last two seasons, laying in a combined 15 games between her junior and senior seasons after playing in 34 combined games her first two years, has attempted three shots this season and scored on two of them.
Howard pulled even at 64:13 off of a perfectly-executed set piece. Suarez took a free kick a couple of yards outside the box, swinging the ball to space near the far post, where Ross ran onto the feed, heading it in on the run from five yards out.
The Highlanders, whose late pressure resembled a team down a goal, very nearly wrote a storybook finish. With seconds remaining in the second overtime, Rebecca Tustin crossed a pass from the left wing aiming for senior Amanda Redden, who was open in front but couldn’t quite stretch far enough to put her toe on what would have been a true buzzer-beater.
“Now, we look ahead to Wednesday to try to break the (program Division I wins) record,” said Risden. “We honored the seniors tonight, but winning the next one would be a great way to send them out.”
The 2013 finale on Wednesday at NJIT is a rematch of an October 4 game at Delaware State, when the Highlanders prevailed against the Lady Hornets, 3-0.