By Liz Matakevich
Shore Sports Network Contributor

The Toms River South girls soccer team considered itself an underdog during much of its landmark 2013 season and the Indians proved any doubters wrong by making it to their first Group III final since the school's back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002.

Senior Madison Kenny (2), in action earlier this season, helped lead Toms River South to its best season in over a decade. The Indians lost to three-time champion Northern Highlands in Saturday's final. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle)

Going up against a perennial powerhouse Northern Highlands team seeking its third straight state championship while continuing a 71-game unbeaten streak, the Indians knew they would have to give it everything they had the entire 80 minutes of the game.

"We came into this game not scared of their record," senior Madison Kenny said. "We knew we were just as good as they were and could play with them, and we did. We just couldn't finish."

Despite a great effort by the defense and freshman goalkeeper Taylor Dean, the Indians couldn't hold off the Highlanders, who scored a goal in in each half on their way to a 2-0 victory to bring the title back home for a third time.

"Northern Highlands is a great team and my girls stuck with them," Toms River South head coach John Crowley said. "It's hard to go up against a team that hasn't lost in 71 games, but the girls played hard the whole game."

Dean didn't have much time before the Highlanders began to form offensive attacks on net. In the fifth minute, sophomore Casey Richards sprinted up the left side of the field with the ball, going through three defenders and making her way to Dean. Richards faked a shot and followed it up with a shot across into the right corner to put Northern Highlands on the board early, 1-0.

The Highlanders’ second goal of the game came in the 49th minute, when Ariel Somple was fouled inside the box to set up a penalty kick. Clare Shea took the kick, cranking the shot to the right past the diving Dean to put Northern Highlands up 2-0.

The Indians didn't let the goal alter their play. Shealyn Dwyer headed a ball in the box towards net in the eighth minute, but Northern Highlands goalkeeper Kayla Klatt made the save.

Taylor Troutman, who led her team with 29 goals coming into the Group III final, looked for an equalizer in the 22nd, when she tore through a defender on the left flank and went straight for the net. She got a shot off that Klatt saved to keep the lead.

Richards had three more shots on net in the first half, but Dean stepped up for the Indians and saved all three to contain the Highlanders to only the one goal in the first half.

"Our kids have been tough all year," Crowley said. "We started making a couple chances at the end of the first, and Dean has been big for us all year in coming up with a lot of saves."

The Indians missed a chance to score thanks to a questionable no-call in the 45th minute. Toms River South players called for a hand ball in the box that would have set up a penalty kick to possibly tie the game, but the Highlanders quickly defused the situation by clearing the ball back to the Indians' side of the field.

Dwyer made a huge stop on defense for the Indians in the 61st minute when she stopped an attack by Hana Kerner. The Indians, however, couldn't get their offense going and Northern Highlands kept the lead to win a third straight Group III title and end Toms River South's history-making season.

"We were very stingy throughout the game to shut them down because on many occasions they could have scored," Crowley said.

The Indians, who finished 21-3, went undefeated on their home turf to win the Shore Conference Class A South division while also winning their first sectional championship in 11 years.

"We weren't picked to win South Jersey, we weren't picked for a lot," Crowley said. "So to get to this point and do what we did this season to prove everyone wrong is great."

"Everyone has been doubting us all season with bad rankings," Kenny said. "We were able to get all the way here with people thinking we wouldn't, and we proved that we are a great team and made history."

The Highlanders outshot the Indians 15-4, while Dean made 10 saves for Toms River South and Klatt came up with three saves.


Box Score

Northern Highlands 2, Toms River South 0




Toms River South (21-3)




Northern Highlands (23-0-1)





Goals (Assists): (NH) Richards 5’, Shea (PK) 49’
Shots: Northern Highlands, 15-4
Saves: (TRS) Dean 10; (NH) Klatt 3