Girls Soccer – TR North Beats Jackson Memorial, Moves One Step Closer to First Sectional Title
TOMS RIVER - With a goal already in hand Tuesday and playing an opponent it had already defeated two prior times this season, the Toms River North girls soccer team settled on cruise control for nearly 65 minutes.
After a surviving a couple of close calls, the Mariners finished off Jackson Memorial and secured a 2-0 win over their Shore Conference Class A South rival to earn a trip to Friday's NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV championship game against No. 1 Eastern Regional.
Second-seeded Toms River North will seek its first ever NJSIAA sectional title against a Vikings side that the Mariners defeated on the road in the sectional quarterfinals two years ago.
"The past two years, we've made it to the semifinals and we weren't as good of a team as we are this year," junior forward and leading scorer Krystal Hund said. "We know Eastern is a good team but we feel pretty confident that this is going to be our year.
Junior Jenna Royson scored in the third minute on an eight-yard rip that overpowered Jaguars senior goalkeeper Kylee Sullivan and rolled into the goal. From there, the Mariners maintained a slight edge in play by keeping the ball in the Jackson Memorial end of the field for the majority of the stretch that spanned the remainder of the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second.
"It's hard to beat a team three times, which we were able to do," Royson said. "We were kind of bummed when we saw we had to play them again, but we were also up for the challenge and we just came to play."
"Against Clearview (in the sectional quarterfinals) we didn't come out as hard as we should have and they took it to us, so I think we learned from that," Toms River North coach Tom Miller said. "Our first five minutes today, we came out hard and for the rest of the game we just kept reminding (the players) keep battling because we know how tough Jackson is."
Jackson Memorial made some noise late in the second half with a pair of shots from near the edge of the 18-yard box that narrowly missed the frame, which might have caught the attention of the Toms River North players. After Sullivan saved a shot off the left post in the 75th minute, Hund crashed the goal and slammed home the follow from close range to effectively ice the game.
While Toms River North defeated Jackson Memorial in two regular-season games by a one-goal margin and jumped on top early on Tuesday, Miller was not completely comfortable until the goal by Hund with 5:47 left.
Friday in Vineland, the Mariners will compete in a sectional final for the first time since 2007 as they pursue program history.
"We've never won a sectional title before so this is going to be an awesome honor just to have an opportunity to play for one," Royson said. "We're going to be fired up to go out there and try to win it."