TOMS RIVER - Toms River North sophomore Emily Royson committed the foul that led to the game-tying penalty kick against her team Thursday against Jackson Memorial in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV quarterfinals, so when she got a chance to atone for the mistake, she was eager to make the most of it.

Royson drew a foul on the outskirts of the 18-yard box on the left side in the 77th minute and connected from a tough angle on the ensuing direct kick to break the tie and give the Mariners - the No. 4 seed in the bracket - a win over the No. 5 Jaguars, 2-1, in the rubber match between the two Shore Conference Class A South rivals.

"It's pretty scary playing Jackson for a third time because they are very tough and we both know each other so well," Royson said. "It's definitely a relief to get past them."

The two A South powers split the regular-season series in two games decided by one goal and wound up tying for the division title and both advancing to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. After Jaguars senior Madison Taylor drew a penalty inside the box on Royson and converted the kick, it appeared as though the two evenly-matched teams might have to settle their final meeting in a shootout.

Royson saw to it that the Mariners' season would not come down to penalty kicks. After drawing the foul call outside the box on the left side of the field, she saw an opening and fired a shot that Jackson Memorial goalkeeper Kylee Sullivan deflected, but could not keep from sneaking inside the near post with 3:35 left to play.

"I saw (Sullivan) wasn't looking at me and was talking to their defenders," Royson said. "It looked like there was some space on the near post and the referee said, 'You can go,' so I took the shot."

The late goal saved the Mariners from a state tournament exit on their home field and kept up their first ever South Jersey Group IV title defense after winning their first ever sectional title last year. Toms River North scored in the ninth minute when junior Maddy Bennert walked in a perfect cross from senior Jenna Royson after Royson beat a defender and served the ball across the box in the air from right to left.

"We tell Jenna to push the ball forward whenever she can," Toms River North coach Tom Miller said. "Whether it's taking somebody on or playing somebody off of her, that's one of the best ways for us the score goals and it's how we got the first one today."

Jackson Memorial responded by steadily intensifying its pressure and finally broke through by earning the 60th-minute penalty kick. The Jaguars outshot Toms River North, 11-6 for the game and 5-4 on goal.

"I knew they were going to respond - I was just hoping we could hold them off and maybe get that second goal before they could tie the game," Miller said. "I thought we responded well, though. We held them off until we could get that free kick and even the goal we gave up was a penalty that happened near the edge of the (18-yard box)."

The Mariners also survived a minor injury to Jenna Royson, who took a shot to the back of the head and came out of the game for more than 10 minutes. She was on the bench when the Jackson scored the tying goal and was back in at attacking center midfield when her younger sister scored the game-winner.

"We had to battle," Miller said. "It's a tough, physical game when you play Jackson and our girls rose to that challenge."

The state tournament has also marked the return of senior Krystal Hund, who suffered a torn ACL in April and has played sparingly during Toms River North's last two games while working her way back into form. A 27-goal scorer a year ago, Hund played about 10 minutes on Thursday after playing about five in Monday's first-round win over Lenape, according to Miller.

Thursday's game represented familiar territory for both teams, particularly Toms River North. On the way to their first ever sectional championship last year, the Mariners defeated both Jackson Memorial and Monday's opponent in consecutive rounds. Last year, Toms River first beat Clearview in the quarterfinals and Jackson Memorial in the semifinals and will try to do the reverse this season.

Toms River North will host Clearview Monday after the No. 8 Pioneers knocked off top-seeded Eastern on penalty kicks Thursday after a 1-1 draw over 100 minutes.

"We feel a little more confidence this year because we have been through this already," Emily Royson said. "We're not going to see anything we haven't seen already so whatever happens, whoever we play, we're know we're good enough to win."


Box Score

Toms River North 2, Jackson Memorial 1

Jackson Mem. (16-5)011
TR North (18-2)112

Goals (Assists): (JM) Madison Taylor (PK) 60'; (TRN) Maddy Bennert (Jenna Royson) 9', Emily Royson (DK) 77'
Shots: Jackson Memorial, 11-6
Saves: (JM) Kaylee Sullivan 2; (TRN) Cameron Kennett 4


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