TINTON FALLS - Two of the most integral players in the Jackson Memorial girls soccer team's biggest win of the young season fully admitted it: they did not expect to win on Sunday against fellow unbeaten Hunterdon Central at the Mountains vs. the Seas Girls Soccer Festival.

Sophomore goalkeeper Brooke McKown and senior forward Lyndsi Beal arrived at the Capelli Sports Complex believing they were underdogs but thanks to a few key offensive plays by Beal in the first half and some strong work by McKown and the defense throughout, the Jaguars again left winners.

Junior Jess Wanzor and Beal each scored first-half goals and McKown held strong in goal as Jackson Memorial edged previously-unbeaten Hunterdon Central for their ninth straight win to open the season.

PHOTO GALLERY: Mountains vs. Seas by Paula Lopez

"I'm not going to lie: we all came here thinking we were probably going to lose, or maybe tie it," McKown said. "We all knew we had to work our butts off and push ourselves to the limit and that's what we did."

The win was part of a 6-1 performance by the Shore Conference against the Skyland Conference at the second annual installment of the festival. Last year, it was the Skyland that dominated the Shore, 6-1.

"We really proved ourselves and showed our heart," Beal said. "It was just an awesome experience to see everybody working so hard."

Sunday's event raised money for Into The Light,a non-profit focusing reducing the stigma of depression for young teens and preventing suicide.

On the field, Beal assisted the first goal of the game by Wanzor, which gave the Jaguars a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.

The celebration was short-lived, as Hunterdon Central (5-1-1) answered in the 14th on a goal by freshman Reagan Schubach to even up the count at 1.

"It was really hot today so we tried to play to the heat a little bit," Neal said. "We played more girls in the back and everybody tried to keep their composure and play a little smarter. I had to man-mark, so everybody was just all over the place."

In the 29th, Beal struck again this time on the scoring end of a connection between her and fellow senior Natalie Knauf. Beal made a run as Knauf slipped the ball through and tucked it away for what proved to be the deciding goal.

"Natalie did a little step over and slipped it through," Neal said. "I ran onto it and it was just me, one-on-one. When I saw that opportunity, I thought, 'I better finish this because this might be one of our only chances."

"Last year, it was always put on the defense," McKown said. "The offense wasn't finishing so that put extra pressure on the defense but with us coming out on fire, scoring goals, I think we're good."

Last year, Jackson Memorial (9-0) got off to a similar start, going 6-0-1 before taking on Bridgewater-Raritan at last year's first ever Mountains vs. the Seas Festival. The Jaguars lost that game, 4-1, which was the first loss in a 3-8 finish to the season.

This year's Jaguars are hoping Sunday's results sparks something much different.

"Last year, this was the time our season went downhill," McKown said. "We had to overcome adversity and now we're just trying our best to show we can keep it going."

"We are all a little shocked in a way, but not totally because we know we are a really good team," Beal said. "Now we know we can do it, so it's a good feeling."

In Other Mountains vs. Seas Action:

Freehold Twp. 3, Ridge 0

The last two times Freehold Township and Ridge squared off in girls soccer, the Group IV championship was on the line and neither team scored.

There was no championship on the line Sunday, but there there was finally some scoring and it started courtesy of an up-and-coming Patriots midfielder who was in fifth grade the first time these two programs met in the group final.

Freshman Kayla Wong buried a 25-yard strike in the first half and the floodgates finally opened in the Patriots-Red Devils rivalry as Freehold Township downed Ridge, 3-0.

Freshman Kayla Wong (left) opened Sunday's scoring for Freehold Township. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We knew this would be a challenge and we would definitely have to rise to that challenge," junior center back Gabby Zuczek said. "We definitely brought it today. Everybody worked hard, everybody believed we could beat them and that's what we did."

Zuczek started the first goal-scoring play with a pretty spin move to shake off a defender. Senior Kat O'Brien ended up with the ball, touched it over to Wong, who lined up a 25-yard blasted that dipped just under the crossbar in the 34th minute.

"I am used to playing center-mid, so I do get a little antsy to push up," Zuczek said. "I saw my opportunity to go up and that's what I did. I cut (the defender) up, did the Maradona, Kat got it, laid it off to Kayla - beautiful shot."

Freehold Township (6-2-1) grew stronger as the game wore on and added to its lead in the 50th minute. Wong started this one, sliding the ball to senior Anna Priborkina, who cross it to junior Lindsay Lloyd at the edge of the six-yard box for the finish.

"Energy is a big part of what we do, so when we saw the first goal go in, it raised our energy even more," Lloyd said.

Junior Sofia Cruz capped the scoring in the 59th when she stole the ball in the Ridge (3-3-1) third and took it in for the finish.

"We locked it down for the first 20 minutes and I think it got in our heads that we were good and we could do this," Zuczek said.

Sunday's win helped Freehold Township bounce back from a 3-2 loss to rival Freehold Boro on Friday and re-centered the team's focus on pursuing postseason hardware. With only three seniors - O'Brien, Priborkina and Athena Giannakouros - in the starting lineup, the Patriots have plenty of room to grow over the next two weeks leading into the Shore Conference Tournament.

"It has definitely been a transition because we are just learning to play with each other," Zuczek said. "With each game, it's getting better and these seniors get us up for every game and keeping things positive."

"Our chemistry is definitely improving as the season goes on," Lloyd said. "It showed in this game because once we are putting passes together and working with each other, we are a lot better."

St. John Vianney 4, Bridgewater-Raritan 1

Senior Jaime Heuser landed a nearly-perfect strike from 20 yards out in the first half and classmate Abby Cieri did the same from 16 out in the second half to spark the Lancers (6-2) to an impressive win over the Panthers (5-2).

Heuser broke the ice in the 25th minute when she gather a pass from senior Victoria Coppola and ripped a 20-yard strike off the bottom of the crossbar and down just over the goal-line. The shot did not reach the back of the net, but the officials ruled it indeed crossed the line, giving the Lancers a 1-0 lead.

Senior Jamie Heuser scored St. John Vianney's first goal on Sunday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Eight minutes into the second half, Cieri took a pass from junior Brooke Buonomo, touched it three times to her right to find space and hammered a 16-yard strike just under the crossbar for a 2-0 Vianney advantage.

Coppola added a goal of her own off a pass from Heuser, who returned the favor with the assist.

Bridgewater forward Allison Lowrey gave St. John Vianney a scare in the first half when she drilled a shot off the crossbar in the early going and the Panthers striker finally got her goal in the 65th. Lowrey won the ball on the right side of the field and from 25 yards out on an angle, curled a shot to the far right corner of the goal to trim the Lancers lead to 3-1.

St. John Vianney senior Abby Cieri. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

St. John Vianney came up with an answer in the 76th. Cieri served a corner kick into the box and sophomore Juliana Perrette knocked it in from close range to cap the scoring and log her first varsity goal.

Sophomore Kelsea Nolan and junior Bella Ross split the game in goal and although she gave up the lone goal, Ross made an acrobatic save on a one-on-one chance to momentarily preserve the shutout.

Toms River North 3, Watchung Hills 0

Senior center back and Duke University commit Emily Royson nailed a 35-yard direct kick in the 31st minute and the Mariners (5-1-1) added two more goals in the second half to handle the Warriors (2-6).

Freshman Madison DiEugenio struck from 12 yards out off a set-up by sophomore Jianna DiPisa in the 52nd and senior Julia Fiorito capped the scoring by running down a pass from classmate Amanda DeVita and chipping the ball over the keeper and into the far right corner of the goal.

Red Bank Catholic 6, Somerville 0

Sophomore Morgan Cupo racked up a hat trick and the Caseys (7-1) handled the Pioneers (6-2). Cupo scored twice in the first 10 minutes, scored her third goal to cap the scoring and also added an assist.

Sophomore Abby Nadjzinowicz and freshman Noel Pauwels each added a goal and an assist and senior Katelyn Bertoldo scored a goal as well.

Middletown South 5, Mount St. Mary 0

Junior Katie Coyle assisted goals by senior Madyson Laudisi, junior Kiera Prince and senior Filomena DeGregorio and the Eagles (8-0) soared to a one-sided win that extended their season-opening winning streak to eight.

Laudisi opened the scoring in the 16th minute and Prince extended the lead to 2-0 in the 28th. Sophomore Lara Brennan added a goal in the 38th off a pass from senior Haley Nicholas to send Middletown South to the half with a 3-0 lead.

DeGregorio started the scoring back up in the 59th and junior Helaina Cannon capped it in the 74th for Middletown South.

Pingry 4, Shore 1

Senior Meli Pekmezian scored in the second half, but the Blue Devils (7-2) could not overcome a four-goal deficit in a loss to the Big Blue (6-2).

 

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