WEST LONG BRANCH - This year's girls soccer Shore Conference Tournament championship game will have a familiar look.

Red Bank Catholic - the No. 3 seed in the tournament - avenged a regular-season loss to No. 2 Middletown South by handing the previously-unbeaten Eagles a 2-0 loss Saturday to advance to the championship game for the second straight year.

The Caseys will play No. 4 Toms River North Wednesday at Shore Regional in the championship game. RBC lost to Toms River North in last year's championship game.

Red Bank Catholic sophomore Morgan Cupo. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We knew we were the better team," Cupo said. "We were so close to beating them last time and winning this tournament last year. We just knew if we played our best today, we were going it win."

Sophomore Morgan Cupo scored both goals on Saturday afternoon at Shore Regional's Robert E. Feeney Field and both came in the second half. In the 50th minute, senior Reagan Pauwels slid the ball to Cupo, who took on a defender, created some space and struck a low shot into the goal from 10 yards out.

Pauwels again initiated a goal in the 70th, this time by winning the ball in the middle of the field and knocking it over to an open Cupo, who finished again for the clincher.

Sophomore Cleo Grignald saved five shots, including a two leaping saves in the last 15 minutes. Her one-handed save on a shot by freshman Makayla Jaffe kept the score 1-0 and Grignald punched another one away when sophomore Meghan Carragher drilled a 30-yard free kick on frame with the score 2-0.

"She is not a tall kid but she got tall to get those," Red Bank Catholic coach Frank Lawrence said. "She went big on a couple of those plays."

After Middletown South came out strong out of the gate to open the game, Red Bank Catholic asserted itself over the final 30 minutes of the first half. The Caseys carried that momentum into the second half and got Cupo a scoring opportunity in the 47th. The sophomore slipped behind the defense but could not get off a clean shot on the breakaway.

"We knew we were dominating," Cupo said. "We just had to keep pushing and it was only a matter of time."

Three minutes late, with a defender on her, Cupo created space and did not miss.

"She is the most competitive kid you will ever see on the field," Lawrence said. "She wants to win so badly and she will do anything it takes to get in there and do that. That's her game. She will just not be stopped."

Middletown South defeated Red Bank Catholic, 2-1, during the regular season in a game in which RBC jumped out to a 1-0 lead before the Eagles rallied.

That remains RBC's lone loss of the season and since dropping that decision, the Caseys are 10-0-1.

"We walked off that field 10 games ago thinking we were better than they were and today we came out to prove it," Lawrence said. "We wanted to be back in the Shore Conference final this year and people may look at us graduating 11 seniors and six kids on Division I rosters and think, 'How could they do that?' We knew we were going to be right back here."

After exacting revenge against Middletown South on Saturday, RBC will go for more against Toms River North on Wednesday night at Shore. The Mariners beat the Caseys, 1-0, in the 2018 championship game.

"They are going to be just as good or even better than Middletown South," Cupo said of her team's next opponent. "We have to play our best like we did today."

 

Box Score

Red Bank Catholic 2, Middletown South 0

12F
RBC (14-1-1)022
Midd South (17-1)000

Goals (Assists): (RBC) Morgan Cupo (Reagan Pauwels) 50', Morgan Cupo (Read Pauwels) 70'
Shots: Red Bank Catholic, 15-12
Saves: (RBC) Cleo Grignald 5; (MS) Emma Bennett 7

 

Toms River North 1, Freehold Twp. 1 (TR North advances on penalties)

Toms River North was fewer than 30 seconds from celebrating a second straight trip to the Shore Conference Tournament final when the last thing they could let happen happened.

Freehold Township junior striker Ryann Leohner got free behind the last defender and one-on-one with Toms River North junior goalkeeper Cameron Kennett.

Leohner stunned the Mariners with an equalizer 20 seconds before the final whistle, but Kennett and Co. regrouped by beating the Patriots, 4-2, on penalties to reach the SCT championship game for the second straight year.

Toms River North will defend its Shore Conference Tournament title Wednesday against Red Bank Catholic at Shore Regional in a rematch of last year's championship game.

"We're so excited," Kennett said. "We just have to come out hard and give it everything we have, like we have been doing."

The teams played to a scoreless deadlock for the first three quarters of regulation and Toms River North broke through on a goal from long distance. Freshman Madison DiEugenio played the ball back toward the back line and senior outside back Paige Farley blasted a 35-yard shot just out of the reach of Freehold Township keeper Ava Madoff and in for the game's first goal in the 62nd minute.

Freehold Township peppered the Toms River North goal for several stretches of the second half, with Leohner nearly scoring twice in the first eight minutes of the half. She drilled post in the 45th and hit the crossbar off a parry by Kennett in the 48th to nearly open the scoring.

It was not until the final seconds that Leohner found the back of the net. Senior Athena Giannakouros slipped a through-ball that eluded the entire Toms River North back line and made it to Leohner's line of vision. With Kennett coming on, Leohnar beat her to the ball and calmly knocked it in.

"Awful," Kennett said of the feeling of watching Leohner's ball cross the goal line. "This happened to us two games ago except we were the ones who scored with 20 seconds left to tie Southern (in the SCT round of 16). It sucks but we stuck it out through two overtimes and all the PK shooters did great."

After a quiet 20 minutes of overtime for both teams, each side converted their first two kicks, with Jaime Girtain and DiEugenio connecting for Toms River North and Anna Priborkina and Kayla Wong for Freehold Township.

Jianna DiPisa kept the pressure on by making the Mariners' third attempt and Kennett came up with a momentum-shifting save on the next shot by Gabby Zuczek.

 

"It's a lot of adrenaline in that situation," Kennett said. "I just went with my gut and that was where she went."

Faith Wavershak made it a 4-for-4 shootout for Toms River North and Kelsey Gilroy missed high to clinch it for Toms River North.

"I know a lot of girls on that team," Kennett said. "It's unfortunate it had to come down to penalty kicks but you've got to come up big."

 

Box Score

Toms River North 1, Freehold Twp. 1 (TR North advances on penalties, 4-2)

12OTOTFPK
Freehold Twp (11-5-2)010012
TR North (12-2-2)010014

Goals (Assists): (FT) Ryann Leohner (Athena Giannakouros) 80'; (TRN) Paige Farley (Madison DiEugenio) 62'
Shots: Freehold Twp., 16-6
Saves: (FT) Ava Madoff 3; (TRN) Cameron Kennett 8
Penalty Kicks: (FT) Anna Priborkina, Kayla Wong; (TRN) Jaime Girtain, Madison DiEugenio, Jianna DiPisa, Faith Wavershak

 

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