Undefeated Johnson girls soccer leans on stout defense during shutout streak
9/24/2018 2:03 PM

To say that the Johnson defense has been good so far would be an understatement right now.

The Crusaders have not given up a goal and recorded their fifth straight shutout with a 2-0 win over Roselle Park on Friday. What's even more impressive though is that Johnson has only given up nine shots on goal.

Defense has become the backbone of the program the last two years for Johnson, which started last season with six consecutive clean sheets. Overall, Johnson has pitched 19 shutouts in its last 28 games. 

"The girls are very organized and they help each other, so there's never a situation where we're one on one in the back," said Johnson coach Ken Leeder. "A lot of it is doing the little things well and it's really just good defense. We play games that look close, but they're really not because we're not letting other teams get shots off. It's been so far, so good and we've done enough to win."

Seniors Colleen SullivanKylee Zawacki and Erica Szymczak as well as junior Lily Gull are the leaders on defense this season. Junior goalkeeper Jackie Minniti has been the team's primary keeper and has six saves.

Johnson has played so well on defense to start the year that one goal has been more than enough to win. The offense has come out and done its job as well though behind the play of seniors Cecelia PuentesCamilia Howard and Natalya Torres.

Howard and Torres both scored and Punetes had an assist for Johnson against Roselle Park.

"We all play really well together and we feed off of each other," said Torres. "We lost some good players from last year, but we just had to fill those gaps and we've done that well. It's been an amazing start to the season."

Roselle Park held off the Johnson offense in the first half as Luana DaLuz made five of her game-high 12 saves. With the amount of pressure Johnson was creating, it was only a matter of time before the Crusaders got on the board.

Howard said the offense has a special connection this year, with three senior forwards up top. That trio played off each other well against Roselle Park and that's something Johnson needs to take advantage of more often going forward.

"We just have to make sure that we finish our chances," said Leeder. "We actually play better against teams that pressure us because we're able to make plays on the counter. Roselle Park and Union Catholic played us smart the last few days and played six in the back. We couldn't really counter and thats's what we're best at."

Johnson will put its shutout streak on the line next week against Gov. Livingston, whose offense is averaging five goals a game. That contest will present a different type of challenge for Johnson, but the Crusaders are embracing it.

"We beaten Gov. Livingston last year and we have to go in with that same mentality that we're going to crush them and win," said Torres. "We have to go in hard and we'll be prepared; we're ready for them."

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