Coach Beth Barrio of South Brunswick High School looked past a defeat to reflect on the positives her girls’ soccer players delivered.
South Brunswick had just fallen to the host school, Monroe Township High School, 2-1, on Sept. 12 when the coach touched on how her players performed.
“I think that both teams were very physical, so I think it was a hard-fought game,” said Barrio, who is in her 10th season as coach. “Monroe always plays with a definite toughness, so we anticipated that. They definitely come to play for 80 minutes. So I think that the girls did a good job of competing for the 80 minutes.
“I think that it went back and forth. They had a lot of opportunities. We had a lot of opportunities. I felt like overall, I was very satisfied with the competitiveness of the game. Obviously, [it was] not the outcome of the game that we wanted. [We] always want to be on the other end of things. But at 2-1 against a very skilled and hard-nosed team like Monroe, [it] is definitely something positive to build on.”
Monroe had held the advantage in time of possession in the first half, but South Brunswick struck first. With 4:07 to go before halftime, junior center midfielder Cathlene Kaseta connected for a goal.
Monroe responded by scoring twice before intermission to take a 2-1 lead that it held on to for the remainder of the game.
“I think that we played really well defensively as a unit,” Barrio said. “I think that we shifted together back and to the right and to the left. It was a collective team defense instead of the one-on-one game. It made a big difference against a team like Monroe, who is very talented and has a lot of depth.
“Their subs would be starters in other programs, so their talent runs really deep. Because we worked collectively, it gave us other opportunities throughout the game to continue to try to push forward. We want to continue to try to push forward with that team unity as we do on the defensive end.”
Barrio sees room for improvement.
“I think that we need to move forward with a little bit more thoughtfulness,” Barrio said. “We’re working on having more intent as we move forward. For example, [against Monroe], because we were playing a lot of defense, we just focused on getting the ball out of the back, and it translates into it coming right back to us. That’s because we don’t have any intent on where it’s going. We don’t have someone making a run purposefully every time. They’re doing it more and more as the season wears on, but it’s something that we need to continue to work on.”
Barrio was extremely proud of her senior goalie Angela Miele, who made 12 saves in helping South Brunswick stay in contention against Monroe. Most of the saves came in the second half when Monroe had a few breakaways to the goal. Miele also had an impressive save on a penalty kick.
“She was incredible,” Barrio said. “That [penalty kick] save was absolutely amazing.”
Barrio wants her team to continue to improve, and she doesn’t want the team’s expectations to change.
“The expectation is the same,” Barrio said. “We lost a lot of players from last year; I only returned four starters on the season. So we have a lot of inexperience on the team right now.”
Barrio believes that the defeat to Monroe will be educational for the Vikings.
“I think it’s going to take them a while to get used to the pace and physicality of the varsity level,” Barrio said. “I think this game was a perfect example of that. Hopefully, we find a rhythm soon and be able to compete game in and game out. That’s our goal.”
Kaseta delivered praise to her teammates.
“Coming into this game, we knew it was going to be a tough one,” Kaseta said. “It’s always been a huge rivalry between us and Monroe. We’re a young team coming out here, and we said every ball, go 100 percent. That’s how we scored our goal. We just kept pounding and kept taking shots on goal.”
Miele revealed that she was focused against Monroe.
“You just got to clear your head and watch the ball,” Miele said. “Pay attention to it, and go for it.”
“We just didn’t give up today,” Kaseta said. “We struggled with that early on this season. We would put our heads down when teams would score. We didn’t do that today. We kept fighting, which is a good thing.”
“We definitely gave our best effort,” Miele said. “We battled until the end.
The Vikings are 1-4 after starting the season with two straight losses to Edison High School, 3-2, on Sept. 5 and Old Bridge High School, 4-0, on Sept. 7. They picked up their first win of the season on Sept. 9 by defeating John P. Stevens High School, 3-2, before falling to Monroe.
South Brunswick fell to Piscataway Township High School, 4-1, on Sept. 14.
The Vikings were scheduled to host East Brunswick High School on Sept. 19. Their next game is a rematch against J.P. Stevens on Sept. 26.