Tara Mendoza’s goal-saving defensive effort in the opening minutes of the first half against Rutgers on Sunday afternoon at Belson Stadium would prove to be the pivotal play as the Red Storm women’s soccer team played the Scarlet Knights to a 0-0 double-overtime tie.
After goalkeeper Jaime Beran was forced to dive for her first save of the day, the ball sat in an unfortunate position directly between a Rutgers player and a wide-open goal. But defender Mendoza came sliding in from seemingly nowhere and kicked the ball past the endline, saving the game just minutes after it started.
“She does it time after time,” said head coach Ian Stone of his freshmen defender. “The thing about Tara is she’ll do a lot of the dirty work. She’s always in the right place and she makes big, big defense plays.”
The Red Storm offense struggled to say the least. The team failed to control the ball throughout the game and only registered one shot: wide right off the foot of forward Krystle Jalalian in the 105th minute. But the goalkeeping was outstanding. Beran frustrated Scarlet Knight attackers for the full 110 minutes, recording 11 saves including multiple of the “diving stop” variety.
“That was a great performance from her,” Stone said. “I think her presence and her confidence level were really good.”
Her most impressive play came early in the second half. After a collision in which two players from each team wound up on the turf, Scarlet Knight midfielder Gina DeMaio was awarded a free kick from just outside the penalty box. She managed to get the ball past the nine Red Storm players inside the box and on net, but Beran dove to her left and knocked the ball out of the air. She then scrambled to her feet and blocked the close-range rebound shot by Karla Schacher in similar fashion.
The scoreless tie is Beran’s seventh shutout of the year and her third during Big East conference play.
“That’s my job,” Beran said. “I’m supposed to keep the ball out of the net and if I’m doing my job, then I should get a shutout. I think we all know we should have won this game. We just need to finish next time.”
Next time will come in a home game on Friday against South Florida. The outcome may be extremely important in determining the Big East playoff picture. The Red Storm now lie in fourth place in the American division of the Big East with the Bulls of South Florida just behind them in fifth place.