TOMS RIVER - The Southern Regional soccer team may have a lot of youth on the roster but don't call the Rams "rebuilding."

Southern served as the home opener for three-time defending NJSIAA sectional champion Toms River South on Tuesday and took down the decorated Indians side, 1-0, to win its third straight game to open the season.

On Tuesday, it was sophomore Kevin Kiernan who came through with the game-breaking play, separating from a host of Indians defenders and skipping a 20-yard shot to the left side netting for the game's lone goal in the 45th minute.

The goal game shortly after a corner kick and the scoring sequence starter with another sophomore, fullback Chris Rizzo, recovered a loose ball in the middle of the field, dribbled by a defending and got the ball to junior Martin Rojas.

Rojas slipped it to Kiernan, who dribbled through traffic and uncorked a low shot past the diving reach of Toms River South junior keeper Jalen Folsom and into the side netting on the left side of the goal.

Toms River South's best opportunity to tie the game came in the 76th minute when junior Shane Kluxen flicked a header off the crossbar out of a set piece.

Southern senior goalkeeper Braden Dugan picked up his second straight clean sheet by saving four shots, including a diving save to his right on a shot by Nelson Gomes in the first half.

Dugan and the Rams also earned a shutout win last week over Manalapan in an impressive 4-0 win, which followed a 4-2 win in the season-opener vs. Atlantic Tech.

The 3-0 start is all the more noteworthy given that even though Southern starts six seniors, it also relies on sophomores in some key spots, including in the center of the defense with Jon Paul Prosperi and Rizzo and Kiernan in the middle of the field. Sophomore Nico Leonard also plays big minutes off the bench and scored three state tournament goals last season as a freshman.

Toms River South, meanwhile, is trying to adjust to the loss of standout senior midfielder Clem Slavick to the Monmouth Cedar Stars Academy. That was even harder on Tuesday, when junior forward Angel Sanchez was out with an injury, according to coach Ed Leibe. Sanchez, Leibe said, led the team in scoring during the preseason.


Box Score

Southern 1, Toms River South 0

Southern (3-0, 1-0)011
TR South (0-1, 0-1)000

Goal (Assist): (S) Kevin Kiernan (Mario Rojas) 45'
Shots: Southern, 10-8
Saves: (S) Braden Dugan 4; (TRS) Jalen Folsom 7

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