Participating in Senior Day with her three fellow classmates, Emily Wheeler, Kenna Wojcik and Gillian Baker, was something Bordentown Regional High School girls soccer team senior defender Haley Russell didn’t think she was going to have the opportunity to experience this past summer.
“I didn’t think this was going to happen because of COVID-19,” Russell said. “It was hard for us because we didn’t know what to expect going in.”
It was during summer workouts where Russell said Coach Dominick Castaldo and the rest of his coaching staff helped the team make the most of the situation by preparing the players to be the best they can be going into a possible season.
The great team chemistry Russell and her Bordentown teammates have on and off the field also kept everyone’s spirits up, and has led to the Scotties taking advantage of their “gift” of a season with a 3-2-1 start.
Bordentown honored all four of their seniors in style on Oct. 19 with a 2-0 Senior Day victory over Pemberton to pick up its third victory of the season.
“Every year it’s great to get a win for the seniors on (Senior Day),” Castaldo said.
“This whole situation is really difficult on these kids. I know how happy and excited they are to be on the field and that’s how happy and excited I am because I want to see us play. The team wants to send the seniors out on the right note. This was another step in that whole plan of seeing the seniors through and letting them have a season.”
The Scotties broke a scoreless tie with 17:11 left to play in the first half thanks to the foot of junior Olivia Saranin.
Freshman Julie Wojcik drilled a perfect crosser into the middle of the box where Saranin was able to get her left foot on the ball to tap in her first goal of the season to put Bordentown up 1-0.
GOAL BORDENTOWN: Olivia Saranin scores of a nice crosser into the box by Julie Wojcik. @BRHSGS take a 1-0 lead with 17:11 left to play in the 1st Half. CC: @central_jersey @brhsathletics @BRHSScotties #NJSoccer ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/dMMGANoyFt
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) October 19, 2020
“It felt really good,” Saranin said. ”It was really important to score the first goal of the game to help get our confidence up.”
It was the second assist of the season for Wojcik, who currently has a team-high four goals scored through the first six games of the season.
Junior Lexi Mazzella also has found the back of the net four times this season for the Scotties and racked up her team-high third assist of the fall to help Bordentown put the game away with 7:23 left to play.
Mazzella sent a perfect ball up the field to a wide open Valentina Candelori streaking towards the net, and the sophomore was able to knock in her third goal of the season to extend the Bordentown lead to 2-0.
Bordentown takes a 2-0 lead with 7:23 left to play on a goal scored by Valentina Candelori. Lexi Mazzella had the assist. Her 3rd of the season. @BRHSGS closing in on win #3 on the season. CC: @central_jersey @brhsathletics @BRHSScotties #NJSoccer ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/NBzZZQHzAq
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) October 19, 2020
Candelori has also dished out two assists this fall.
“Me and Valentina correlate really well up top and she already knew what I was going to do with the ball to make that run,” Mazzella said. “We all have really good chemistry this year and passing the ball is our biggest asset.”
Getting the chance to play on a day she thought may not be in the cards just a few months ago, Russell made a crucial game-saving play with a little over 20 minutes left to play.
Seeing the ball deflect off Bordentown goalkeeper Rayna Hamdan and trickle towards the net, the senior, without any hesitation, raced down to the goal to knock the ball away from going in to keep Bordentown’s one-goal lead intact at the time.
“There was no way I was going to let them score and mentally that carried me to get there,” Russell said.
Happy to be able to experience a victory on Senior Day, Russell couldn’t thank her teammates enough for helping the team pull through against Pemberton.
“It’s really important to me that all these girls are so close and supportive of each other,” Russell said. “We all carried each other through this win.”
Hamdan and Khushmit Sidhu combined for eight saves in net for Bordentown in the victory.
The Scotties will now gear up for two straight road contests against New Egypt and Burlington Township on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23, respectively.
From the start of the season, Castaldo has looked at playing as a sense of normalcy for his players during these tough times.
There is no team emphasis on championships. Getting through a full season and having the opportunity to play and experience the things on the field that they would normally get in any season, is what Castaldo is hoping his players get to have this fall.
“We want to play as many games as we can and raise our level of play every game,” Castaldo said. “We want to do the things that are there every year. Obviously, we would like to win more games than we lose. We’re just trying to get the season in and have some normalcy.”