NJSIAA Group Championships

Saturday, Nov. 19

At Kean University

Group III Championship

Wall (24-1) vs. Northern Highlands (21-1), 12:30 p.m.

The 2016 season has been a landmark one for the Crimson Knights and in order to finish it off in the best way possible – with the program’s first ever NJSIAA Group III championship – they will have to go through the state’s most dominant program over the past five years. Northern Highlands won four straight Group III titles from 2011 to 2014 before Colts Neck ended the streak in last year’s Group III final.

Wall junior Amy Paternoster leads the Crimson Knights with 28 goals and 21 assists after scoring the overtime winner on Tuesday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Wall is hoping to do what Colts Neck did last year and win its first championship against the Highlanders. The Crimson Knights lost their first and only game of the season to Colts Neck, 2-1, in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and responded by steamrolling its way to the Central Jersey Group III title for the first time since 1998. After pitching four shutouts and outscoring opponents 19-0 in the sectional bracket, Wall conceded a goal to Seneca 49 seconds into the Group III semifinal and faced its first deficit of the state tournament. Lauren Karabin answered with a goal 14 minutes into the game and Amy Paternoster finished off the win with a penalty kick seven minutes into overtime.

Northern Highlands rolls into Saturday coming off a come-from-behind, 4-3 win over Hopewell Valley in which the Highlanders fell behind 2-0. Wall’s defense will face one of its stiffest challenges of the season against a team with multiple weapons and a great possession game. Senior and Notre Dame recruit Eva Hurm leads the way for the Highlanders with 21 goals and eight assists.

Wall counters with Paternoster, a junior Princeton commit who has had a monster season with 28 goals and 21 assists to lead the Crimson Knights in arguably their best season ever. Karabin has also been a force on the attack with 14 goals and 14 assists and center midfielder Sarah Gordon has 10 goals to her credit. All three are juniors, which make up most of Wall’s roster, so the Crimson Knights have a chance to be back in this spot next year regardless of Saturday’s outcome.


Group I Championship

Shore (19-4) vs. Glen Ridge (16-6-1), 5:30 p.m.

While Wall is in a state final for the second time in program history, Shore is making its fifth straight trip to the Group I final after winning its first outright title last year. The Blue Devils captured that elusive title with a thrilling, 2-1, overtime win over this year’s opponent, which will be out for revenge this year. Shore and Glen Ridge have met in the Group I final three out of the past four seasons, with each team winning one and the two teams sharing the title in 2013.

Shore returns top scorer Frankie McDonough from last year’s team after McDonough scored in the championship game as a freshman last year. Older sister Devon is back manning the midfield and Hannah Birdsall – who scored the overtime winner last year – has been another major source for goals. Just as Frankie McDonough made an instant impact as a freshman last year, so has Julia Eichenbaum this season. The freshman has 17 goals during her rookie campaign, including seven in five postseason games and at least one goal in all five.

Shore freshman Julia Eichenbaum has scored seven goals in five state tournament games, including at least one in every game. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Like Wall, Shore is positioned to return to this game next year with its young talent eligible to return, but that is nothing new for the Blue Devils. Shore is one of just five public school teams to reach a group title game in five consecutive seasons, joining Northern Highlands, Glen Rock, Ramapo, Lenape and East Brunswick in that club. Northern Highlands is the only team to reach the tournament in six straight seasons, which is an active streak with the Highlanders playing in the Group III final on Saturday.


Other Group Finals

Group II

Haddonfield (25-1) vs. Parsippany (9-12-1), 10 a.m.


Group IV

Hunterdon Central (20-1-1) vs. Ridge (14-4-4), 3 p.m.