The Columbia girls soccer team was denied its second win of the season and a chance to get back to the .500 mark on Monday, when the Livingston Lancers bested the locals, 3-0, at DeHart Field. The Cougars fell behind early against the defending American Division champs and were never able to recover.
In the 14th minute of play, Livingston's Clara Scher took a centered pass in front of the Cougar net and deflected it in for the opening goal of the game. Ten minutes later, Scher took a shot on net which was saved by Columbia's Eliza Gray, but was rebounded and put back in by Jordy Bonvini.
After playing a tight second half, Sabrina Flores put back another Scher rebound to put the Lancers up 3-0 in the 73rd minute.
"The last two goals that they scored were just [us] not getting back. We routinely tell them that they need to follow shots on both sides. Follow their shots and follow our shots," said CHS co-head coach Meghin Meade. "I think it just came down to nerves."
The Cougar offense and defense was under constant pressure throughout the contest against a very fast Livingston squad. Columbia was outshot 22-7 in game, and did not win the possession battle. Gray ended with 10 saves, all in the first half. CHS co-captain Amy French stepped into the net in the second half and had eight saves.
"They're a team that is everywhere and they know exactly where to go at all times of the game," Meade said of Livingston. "Someone's here, they know they have two outlets automatically. We were trying to stop that the best way that we could, but with speed and knowledge, sometimes it's tough."
For the first 40 minutes of play, the Cougars did not come very close to scoring, and were on defense for much of the first half. But in the second half, the Cougar offense was much more efficient and had a few good scoring opportunities that they couldn't convert.
Most notably, in the 55th minute, co-captain Olivia Mangan played a cross to Margot Kleinberg, who had a wide-open look at the net. The cross came in a little awkwardly, and Kleinberg could only play it off of her torso, not off of her head or a foot. Minutes later, a Columbia header off of a corner kick sailed a foot wide of the net. A goal on either of those chances would've cut Livingston's lead in half.
"I think we were just a totally different team in the second half," Meade said. "We were playing a little nervous in the first half. We knew what to do, it was just that our nerves got to us."
It has been a rough beginning to the season for the Cougar girls, who have played the two top teams in the American Division three times through the first four games, going 1-3. But the American Division is one of the toughest in the state, and the next three conference games against Glen Ridge, Caldwell and then Millburn will not be easy ones, despite the girls being done with Livingston for the year (barring a meeting in the county tournament).
"It's a tough way to start, but every team in this conference is going to be a tough match," Meade said. "So we just have to continue to keep taking it day by day."
Columbia is in action again on Wednesday afternoon at Glen Ridge.