NORTH HALEDON — Pompton Lakes‘ Christine Cottrell walked off the field Tuesday after a 1-0 loss to Eastern Christian disappointed about the Cardinals’ first loss in nearly two weeks, but optimistic about what lies ahead.With Clifton coach Stan Lembryk in attendance scouting Pompton Lakes for Saturday’s Passaic County tournament semifinal showdown, Cottrell was in the middle of a number of close calls — orchestrating ample scoring opportunities with her speed and athleticism — but to no avail.
Two crossbars, one post, and a would-be game-tying goal that was stopped by EC defender Lyndsey Smith’s head on the goal line were just a few of the chances the Cardinals had in the second half.
If Pompton Lakes — the lowest remaining seed (No. 5) left in the tournament — wants to advance to its first county final since 2001, it will need to create more of those chances, but make the most of them against the top-seeded and defending champion Mustangs.
“We’re pumped up,” said Cottrell, a senior whose county title hopes the past two years have been halted by Clifton, in the quarters in 2011 and the semis, 1-0, last season.
“This is going to be the third time in a row we see them in the [county tournament], and after beating Wayne Valley [2-1 in OT], we told ourselves that no matter how good an opponent is, we can pull through. We created the chances [Tuesday], hopefully we can do the same on Saturday.”
Cottrell, who has eight goals and seven assists, has been one of the catalysts sparking Pompton Lakes‘ 10-4 start. She and fellow midfielder Danielle Jenkin (six goals, eight assists) have been described by coach Tom Clark as “dynamic,” routinely setting up scoring chances for the Cardinals’ leading scorers, Jenn Pezzuti (15 goals, 10 assists) and Sierra Rose (nine goals, three assists).
“Christine has a motor like no other,” said Clark, in his first year as Pompton Lakes‘ coach. “Her vision is good, she’s an unselfish player, and because of her motor and causing that chaos in the middle, it allows Danielle to really become the quarterback of the team. Those two work as a tandem beautifully, and when those two go, we go as a team.
“If you talk to our forwards or outside [midfielders], they’ll say the same thing. They really get them in positions to score. I always say our midfield is dynamic.”
Pompton Lakes is excited and looking forward to the challenge that awaits Saturday. The Cardinals know Clifton represents their toughest challenge, but understand the pressure is on the Mustangs, a perennial contender looking to reach the county final for the fifth straight year.
“They’re a team that’s going to be a lot of problems all over the field,” Clark said. “But if we can play mistake-free soccer, we have a chance. The girls are looking forward to the challenge.”