Wildcats head coach Jim Gabarra talks to the team after the match.
Recent High School Graduate Danae O’Halloran Equalizes in 80th Minute
The New Jersey Wildcats (5-2-3, 18 points) and North Jersey Valkyries (7-2-2, 23 points) battled for 90 minutes on Wednesday night in a highly competitive match at DePaul Catholic High School, with the end result of the contest being a 1-1 draw. The Valkyries opened the scoring in this affair in the 58th minute on a Danielle Schulmann tally, and the Wildcats then equalized the count in the 80th minute when recent Toms River North graduate and UNC commit Danae O’Halloran scored her first W-League goal off a Yael Averbuch corner kick.
“It was a really tight game, and it felt like one of those games where one goal would make the difference,” Wildcats head coach Jim Gabarra remarked. “They were able to separate us in the back and score a nice goal, but I am proud of the way our team fought. Both teams played a really good brand of soccer, and it made for an exciting game for the fans.”
The level of play was high from the onset of this match, and both sides put forth hard-nosed efforts in an attempt to gain the go-ahead notch in the first half. Following a series of offensive threats from the visiting Wildcats, the Valkyries almost broke the deadlock in the 31st minute. After being able to bust through the back line on the left end, Schulmann blasted a point blank shot on target, but Wildcats goalkeeper Chante Sandiford was somehow able to make a diving save of the attempt. In the following minute, a curler from the midfield hit the top crossbar and bounced back towards danger. Sandiford then alertedly tracked down the loose ball and jumped on it before a handful of North Jersey players could close.
The Wildcats had solid play through its midfield that created some good opportunities for the offense in the opening half, but the visitors were unable to completely capitalize on their chances. In the back, defender Beth Troutman led an aggressive crew that did a nice job of recovering and forcing turnovers. However, when the first 45 minutes of play had concluded, the count remained scoreless.
In the second half, the Valkyries got on top with the aforementioned 58th minute knock. On that scoring play, the hosts were able to cut through the center of the field before a ball was placed at the feet of a streaking Schulmann. She then found a crease before one-touching the feed to establish a little bit of space in front of her. Once she felt comfortable, the North Jersey striker got set and delivered a hard strike towards the goal before Sandiford had any time to truly react, giving her team a 1-0 advantage.
The Wildcats aggressively turned up the tempo after that goal, and its hard work finally paid dividends in the 80th minute. Standing at the corner flag, Averbuch raised her hand before she sent a cross right in front of the far post. Before distribution arrived, midfielder Amber Brooks crashed the frame, which cleared up some room behind her. There to take advantage of the opening was O’Halloran, who quickly gathered her balance while falling backward and redirected an equalizing side volley into the back of the net.
Both sides played with a furious intensity the rest of the way, and each team had its potentially dangerous moments. However, the final whistle would blow before any more damage would occur, and a final count of 1-1 showed on the scoreboard when 90 minutes were officially in the books.
The Wildcats will now return to action on Thursday evening at Saint John Vianney High School in Holmdel, hosting the New Jersey Rangers in its 2012 home finale. Tickets for that match are available now and can be attained by calling 732-720-9163 or at the gate on Thursday. The Wildcats will be attempting to break the New Jersey state record for most people juggling a soccer ball at halftime of that game, so all fans should bring a soccer ball to take part in the potentially historical event.
Individual tickets as well as team and family packages are available for the home finale, and more information about the Wildcats can be found online at www.njwildcats.com.