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Oct 04, 2022

Young Talent Leading Brookdale Women’s Soccer Team

By Tim Morris

Paige Coulahan (right) returns from last year’s Region 19 champion team. Photo by Mathew Stark

It’s business as usual for the Brookdale Community College’s nationally ranked women’s soccer team.

“The team’s goals and expectations are the same as every year,” said Head Coach Nil Onder. “We would like to play well in the regular season and make it to the Region championship game and then go off to the Nationals.”

It’s a trip the Jersey Blues have made frequently, including in 2021 when they made it to the Final Four of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Tournament. The Blues have been to the NJCAA national tournament seven of the last eight years. Onder, a former Brookdale star herself, gives her team a good chance of returning to Herkimer, New York – host of the nationals.

“We have an overall strong and well-rounded team,” said Onder.

The ’22 Blues are centered around their four returning sophomore starters from last year’s Region 19 champions: goalie Emma Bennett (Middletown South), defender Paige Coulahan (Howell), midfielder Lianna Quezada (Old Bridge) and midfielder Milena Alves (Long Branch). Bennett and Coulahan were NJCAA All-Americans in 2021. Bennett, the ex-Eagle standout, posted five shutouts and had a goals against average of 1.21. Coulahan anchored a defense that permitted 16 goals in 14 matches. Quezada and Alves are two-way midfielders who can defend and be playmakers.

One concern could be the loss of All-American Jada Trotta, who scored 20 of the teams 50 goals. It will be more of a team effort this fall.

“Jada was a key player for the team last year, but this year is a new team,” Onder remarked. “We have some incoming freshmen that will step up.”

Those incoming freshmen forwards are Adyson Hornberger (Monroe), Rori McDonough (Shore), Samantha Soto (Sayreville) and Catherine DeLia (Middletown North). Fortifying midfield are freshmen Rory Paris (Wall) and Leslie Alonso-Ruiz (Long Branch). The key addition to defense is frosh Tiffany Brickle (Middletown North). Versatile Jessica Argentina (Keyport) can play wherever needed.

The Jersey Blues opened their 2022 campaign impressively knocking off Division I Essex, 1-0, in overtime. Bennett picked up where she left off in ’21, stopping 14 shots on goal for the clean slate.

Hornberger and McDonough connected on the game-winner in the 101st minute. McDonough ripped a shot from 18 yards out beyond the Essex keeper off a feed from Hornberger to send Brookdale home a winner.

Brookdale was ranked No. 4 in the first NJCAA Division III national poll.