Girls Soccer- Shore Conference Tournament Final Preview: Middletown South vs. Howell
2023 Shore Conference Tournament Final
Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023
At Memorial Field, Summerfield Elementary School, Neptune
No. 7 Middletown South vs No. 13 Howell, 6 p.m.
No. 7 Middletown South (Finished Group 4 Winners)
Head Coach: Megan Barry
Road to the Finals
First Round: Bye
Second Round: Defeated No. 10 Lacey, 3-0
Quarterfinals: Defeated No. 2 Freehold Township, 2-1
Semifinals: Defeated No. 3 Central Regional, 1-0
Middletown South opened the season in the top 10 of the Shore Sports Network Shore 16 rankings and only has three losses on the season. All three came to teams in the top 10: No. 1 Freehold Township, No. 2 Manalapan and a 3-2 loss in overtime to Howell. The Eagles are 9-0-1 in their last 10 games and have slowly moved back up the Shore 16 rankings. The last time Middletown South was in the SCT Finals was 1998 and has never won.
Senior goalkeeper Allie Greco returned from injury in the quarterfinals after missing two weeks. Junior Emma Verticchio filled for a good portion of Middletown South's unbeaten streak and posted two shutouts, one coming against Lacey in the second round of the SCT. Greco made countless saves in the second half of the semifinals to earn the shutout.
Middletown South’s defense is led by Jenn Schuster and Maria DeGregorio. Both defenders made it difficult for Central Regional to get any close shots inside the box during the semifinals. Every time a ball was played inside, one of them was able to clear it out. The outside defenders are Izzy Dyas and Skylar Miller, who were both composed against Central and were able to force the play outside of the box.
Camryn Szotak is the Eagles' Swiss Army knife, being able to play anywhere on the field. The South Carolina commit has mostly played midfield but you can see her on the back line towards the end of games. Lauren Ceurvels and Grace Gironda create chances for the forwards with their ball movement. Gironda has 11 assists on the season
Sophomore Bea Tinoco leads the team with 14 goals this season and causes problems for opposing defenders with her speed and ability to play physically. Junior Natalie Percello only has five goals on the season, but three of them have come in the postseason. She scored both goals against No. 2 Freehold Township in a 2-1 victory and scored the lone goal against No. 3 Central Regional in a 1-0 win. Junior Amanda MacGregor plays the other forward position and has six goals on the season, two coming against Lacey in the second round of the SCT.
No. 13 Howell (Finished Group 8 Runner-up)
Head Coach: Miguel Arroyo
Road to Finals
First Round: Defeated No. 20 Shore Regional, 3-0
Second Round: Defeated No. 4 Red Bank Catholic, 3-1
Quarterfinals: Defeated No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven, 1-0
Semifinals: Defeated No. 17 Manasquan, 4-1
Howell opened the season ranked No. 3 in the Shore 16 but lost its first three games, all to teams ranked in the top ten of the Shore 16 rankings. Throughout the season, the Rebels only played two teams that were not ranked in the Shore 16. They dropped in the rankings, but slowly moved back up with their current seven-game win streak. During the regular season, the Rebels defeated Middletown South in overtime, 3-2. This will be back-to-back finals for Howell and like Middletown South, the Rebels have never won the SCT championship.
Senior Madison Smith has been fantastic in goal during the postseason, posting two shutouts. In the closing minutes of the quarterfinals, she became a brick wall, preventing Rumson from scoring the equalizer. Against Manasquan, she made two key saves in the first half to keep the game tied going into halftime.
Howell lost a key piece of its defense from last year's team in center back Alli Gold and it took a couple games to develop the chemistry that is a key part of their success. Emily Rosati and Gabby Snowden fill the center of the backline and Emily Rosati and Samantha Gold, Alli’s younger sister, play on the outside. In the first three games of the season, Howell gave up seven goals; in their last seven, the Rebels have only conceded two goals and they both came during the SCT.
The midfield is controlled by Colgate commit Jade Vieira, who has four goals during the tournament. Vieira is a player who is in scoring range from 40 yards out, as she proved on a free kick in the semifinals against Manasquan. Midfielders Leila Oshiro and Madelyn Roberto both are dangerous on corner kicks for Howell. The last two seasons, the Rebels have been able to score multiple goals off their corners. Allison Nase plays the holding midfield position and is the player that starts the majority of Howell’s attacks up field.
Freshman Makenzie Memmolo wasted no time showing her talents this season, scoring opening day against Brick Memorial. She has 10 goals this season, including the equalizer against Manasquan in the semifinals. Junior Ashley Smith can play both forward and midfield and has lightning speed on the outside. Smith had the assist for Memmolo's goal last round.
Matchups to Watch
Goalies: Who will concede first? Both Grecco and Smith have brought their A-game in the SCT.
Defenders: Will either back line make a mistake? Both teams were tested in the SCT and both will face strong and fast forwards. The battles between Schuster and DeGregorio vs. Smith and Memmolo, as well as Snowden and Rosatti vs. Tinoco and Percello will be fun to watch.
Midfield: Who will win the possession game? Vieira and Szotak are two Division I players controlling the midfield and the possession game.
Forwards: Who will score the big one? The way both teams' goalies have been playing, one goal might be it. Will it be one of the underclassmen -- Tinoco (14 goals) or Memmolo (10 goals) -- or one of the juniors -- Percello (5 goals) and Smith (4 goals)?