Photo Gallery by Doug Bostwick

NEPTUNE – Not many girls soccer teams have played as many Shore Conference Tournament games at the Memorial Athletic Complex in Neptune as Wall has over the last two decades, and yet more than half of the Crimson Knights current roster was not even born the last time Wall won an SCT championship.

Wall’s four seniors, meanwhile, have been part of the overall success as well as the painful championship losses, and in Saturday night’s championship game against top-seeded Colts Neck, Wall’s version of the core four helped deliver a piece of long-awaited history.

Senior Abigayle Musto scored the lone goal of the game and classmates Danielle Gardner, Heather Arbachesky and Christie Cancro led the effort in the middle of the field as the Crimson Knights beat the two-loss Cougars for the second time this season to capture their first SCT title since 1998 with a 1-0 win.

Heather Arbachesky congratulates Abigayle Musto on her second-half goal, the difference in Wall's 1-0 win over Colts Neck Saturday in the Shore Conference Tournament final. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

“It’s the best feeling,” Musto said. “It’s totally worth the wait. We knew we had it this year and now that we finally did it, it’s amazing.”

The four seniors were freshmen in the program the last time Wall played in the SCT final in 2011, when the Crimson Knights lost to Freehold Township. Now seniors, Musto and Cancro paired up in the center midfield, Gardner anchored the defense as the sweeper and Arbachesky – one of the heroes in Thursday’s semifinal shootout win – has followed up a 19-goal season as a junior with six this year, tied for second on the team.

“There’s only four of them, but they all play up the middle, so they really make up the core of this team,” third-year Wall coach Mike Juska said. “Two of them (Arbachesky and Gardner) are going to Towson (University) next year and really, all four of them will probably end up playing in college. With the game Abby had today, I’d be very surprised if she wasn’t playing at the next level.

“They are just a good group of girls. We have a lot of freshmen here and they have been out there, helping them since day one in addition to handling their own responsibilities. They are just a great representation of the school on and off the field.”

After a first half that featured little action in either team’s 18-yard box, Musto found a spot near the Colts Neck goal and worked to create the game’s first big moment 4:08 into the second half. After playing the ball on one touch to sophomore Natalie Sprengel, Musto worked her way into the box as the play developed. Sprengel slid the ball to space on the right side and junior Dari Lyons one-timed a long pass into the wind toward the far side of the box.

“I had my back turned so that I could see the ball and the keeper, so I knew she was out,” Musto said. “We practice headers a lot, so once the ball was in the air, I knew how I wanted to hit it.”

Musto out-jumped a Colts Neck defender to the ball and lofted a header over Cougars freshman goalkeeper Rebecca Eagan – who came out to play the ball – and into the goal for the only score of the game.

“We won today because we won fifty-fifty balls,” Musto said. “Our philosophy is if you win every ball, you can’t lose the game. Against a team like Colts Neck, it’s even more important to win as many loose balls as you can.”

Wall sophomore Alex Panasuk earned the shutout in goal with Gardner anchoring the defense. Colts Neck had not been shut out all season long before Saturday and had scored only one goal twice. The Cougars played without sophomore leading scorer and Penn State recruit Frankie Tagliaferri, who was away at a college camp, according to Colts Neck coach Doug Phillips.

“Frankie’s a great player, but we’re not going to change anything just because one player isn’t there,” Gardner said. “I usually have to stay unmarked and drop back while we have other girls on the forwards, and that didn’t change much. Everyone is great on that team, so there was no need to change anything.”

“You could definitely see the difference without her on the field,” Juska said of Tagliaferri. “Them not having her, we knew it would obviously be an advantage for us, but Colts Neck’s a great team with or without her. It’s not just her that’s made them the number one team in the Shore.”

The two Shore Conference Class B North rivals split the regular-season series, with Wall handing Colts Neck its only loss of the season prior to Saturday on Oct. 1. Colts Neck won the first meeting in dominant fashion, 5-1, but Wall bounced back for a 3-2 overtime win over the Cougars.

“That loss has stuck in the back of our heads, so we’ve used it as motivation to go out on top,” Gardner said.

With only four seniors on the team, the Crimson Knights may not have to wait very long for another championship, although Colts Neck loses only two senior starters next season. Before the two look forward to a potential SCT rematch next year, the newfound rivals could meet one more time in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III playoffs. Colts Neck is the No. 1 seed in the sectional bracket, while Wall is No. 2.

“It’s always going to be a battle every time we play them,” Juska said. “Hopefully, we’ll get to play them again in the state tournament.”

 

Box Score

Wall 1, Colts Neck 0

1

2

F

Wall (16-3-1)

0

1

1

Colts Neck (15-2)

0

0

0

Goals (Assists): Musto (Lyons) 45’
Shots: Wall, 7-6
Saves: (W) Panasuk 2; (CN) Eagan 4