Point Pleasant – Toms River North rode strong defensive play and timely goals to the Shore Conference Tournament Championship Wednesday night from Point Boro High School.
The Mariners got a goal on a strike from sophomore Alexa Peto in the opening frame which turned out to be all Toms River North would need in a 1-0 shutout over second seeded Red Bank Catholic.
— North Girls Soccer (@NorthGrlsSoccer) October 25, 2018
For TRN, it was their second SCT title in school history, joining the 2012 team that defeated Freehold 2-0.
The road to becoming the Queens of Shore Conference soccer is not easy, but these Mariners were able to put 2018’s slow start, as well as last season’s disappointing postseason results in the rear view mirror. They were a perfect 4-0 in the tournament, picking up wins over St. John Vianney, fourth-seeded Shore Regional, top-seeded and then undefeated Middletown North, and second-seeded Red Bank Catholic.
Toms River North had a simple plan – keep the ball out of their own net and let the rest of the game take care of itself.
“We wanted to make the game a little crazy,” coach Tom Miller said. “Use our speed up top, use our defense and keep the ball in front of us, and take advantage of each opportunity on offense.”
The Mariners were slow out of the gate this season, sitting at 3-3 after a loss to Ridge in late September at The Mountains vs The Seas event. Since that setback, TRN has amassed a 9-0-1 mark, claimed stake to the A-South division title and now take home the conference’s most prestigious hardware.
Out of the gate, it was Red Bank Catholic who controlled the play, but North goalie Cameron Kennett was up to the challenge and brushed aside the two dangerous shots that RBC fired on net. Kennett – who made five saves for the clean sheet, along with the back line of Duke commit Emily Royson, Morgan Curtis, Jamie Wyckoff and freshman Faith Wavershak kept Red Bank Catholic to the outside of the box and kept any real opportunities from being formulated.
Peto found the twine for Toms River North for the third game of the tournament. While the defense has taken the headlines of the tournament, allowing just one goal in the SCT, the Mariners did get scoring from Peto, Royson, Julia Fiorito, Jazmin Brown and University of Pitt commit Marisa Tava.
For Peto, her ninth goal of the season and third of the tournament brought the hardware back to Toms River North for the first time since 2012. Playing in late postseason games is something that the Mariners have become accustom to, now reaching the SCT semi-finals for the third straight year as well as the South Jersey Group 4 Championship game in the state playoffs. What has alluded them has been the win in these settings, falling to Wall in the SCT semi and Washington Township in the SJ4 final.
— Casey J Krish (@CaseyKrish) October 24, 2018
“All the girls have told me that they’ve made it far and lost,” Peto said. “Me being a sophomore, it feels great to win it all.”
Coach Miller was an assistant coach on the team that won the SCT in 2012, and he spoke to the difficulty that winning a conference title brings to a team.
“It feels great to finally get the win,” Miller said. “I knew it was hard to win, but I knew with the team we have and the way they play; we had a chance to close this out.”
The Caseys best chance to even up the score came just inside the 70th minute, when a shot skimmed the top of the crossbar and awarded a goal kick. From that point on, TRN was able to boot the ball downfield and run down the clock.
While the title “Shore Conference Champions” will never be taken away from these girls, their season is not over yet. The NJSIAA state tournament is set to kick off next Monday. North received the six-seed in the South Jersey Group 4 bracket and will play host to 11-seeded Egg Harbor in the opening round.
While the Mariners have accumulated a 12-3-1 record this year, their state tournament bracket is loaded with the likes of Eastern, Clearview, Shawnee and Washington Township who will act as a roadblock if TRN is to claim the Group 4 title.
“With our seed, we will have to make another run like this,” Miller said. “The teams are going to be really good, and we are going to have to go on the road and handle our business.”
“We had a slow start to the season, but we kept working at it and coach put a lot of confidence in us.” Peto said.
While TRN has had a successful season to date, they have shown that they are a team that will embrace the roll of “underdog” and can compete with any team the state has to offer.