Girls Soccer – Point Beach Erases 3-1 Deficit, Defeats Shore in Overtime to Win Second Straight Sectional Title
Two teams that are no strangers to each other faced off for the 12th consecutive year in the Central Jersey Group 1 tournament and it was the second season in a row the winner came back to win.
Sophomore Baleigh Johnson scored the golden goal in the 88th minute and Point Pleasant Beach, the No. 3 seed, overcame a second-half deficit for the second straight season to defeat No. 5 Shore Regional, 4-3, in overtime and win back-to-back CJG1 titles.
Shore took a 3-1 lead in the 51st minute on Megan Kelly’s volley off a cross from Ava Agresti. Point Beach wasted no time getting back into the game, scoring two minutes later off a blast from Gabby Kirchner from outside the box.
“We knew the game wasn’t over,” Kirchner said. “We were ready and going to come out and work as hard as we could because we wanted this so bad. We are good individually, but when we work together we can do great things and that is what we did tonight.”
Shore came out aggressive to start the game and applied pressure from the opening whistle. In the seventh minute, senior Kasey Bazydlo scored the first of her two goals off a pass from Valerie Hayes.
The Garnet Gulls settled down after conceding the goal and were able to shift the game from out of their defensive zone. Point Beach tied the game in the 24th minute when Johnson converted a penalty kick after Shore goalie Sofia Merten committed a foul in the box.
“That was tremendous composure to step up,” Point Beach coach Adam Curtis said about Johnson. “She stepped up last year in the Shore game with two goals and a couple penalty kicks last year. She calmly put that one in and we really needed that and it settled our nerves.”
Bazydlo scored her second goal before halftime in the 37th minute when she slipped by Point Beach’s defense on a free kick from just inside midfield and beat goalkeeper Makenzie Highland.
Both teams had chances to score over the next 20 minutes, but their defenses routinely cleared the ball away from danger. Point Beach’s defense did not allow any close opportunities after giving up the third goal and Highland, who made several saves in the first half, made sure her teammates were in the correct spots on set pieces.
“It started last year backing up her sister (Morgan),” Curtis said about Highland. “She had to step in last year the first time we played Shore and get her feet wet. She knew coming into this year she was the go to person and she has taken it into her own. She made it her own position and played it her own style. She has been able to put the ball down at her feet and we knock it slowly out of the back.”
Shore senior Amelia Agresti seemed to be in the right spot several times throughout the game and with less than five minutes to play in regulation she was able to get to the ball near the goal-line and clear the ball away.
With 2:17 left in regulation, Point Beach was awarded a corner kick and freshman Katie Kirchner placed the ball to the back side of the box, where junior Sydney Zylinski had a clear look for the equalizer.
“I knew this was an opportunity to put us back in the game,” the younger Kirchner said. “I was focused on putting the ball in a good position and I knew my team would be there to finish it off.”
The freshman Kirchner would also be the hero in overtime, sending a well-placed ball to Johnson, who beat her defender forcing Hayden Neuhaus to come out and Johnson made the touch and scored the goal with 2:17 left in overtime.
“A beautiful ball by Katie (Kirchner),” Johnson said. “ It went right to my feet and the defender was too close and I made an easy touch. The goalie had to come out and I was able to make a quick touch and kept my composure and there was the back of the net.”
Point Beach defeated Shore 3-2 in the quarterfinals last year on their way to the CJG1 title. The Garnet Gulls trailed 2-1 in the second half and scored the game winner in the 72nd minute. They did not trail the rest of CJG1 sectional after that game.
Point Beach will play Audubon, which won South Jersey Group 1, on Thursday at Audubon, with the time to be determined. If Point Beach wins, the Garnet Gulls will return to the Group 1 final for the second straight season.