OAKHURST - Playing its second straight game without its leading scorer on Wednesday night, the Wall girls soccer team once again raised its collective level of play - this time in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal against No. 3 seed Toms River North at Ocean Township High School.

The effort was across the board, but when it comes to scoring, no player has stepped up quite like senior Jenna Karabin has.

Karabin scored her third goal of the last two games during the 36th minute and classmate Hailee Reinhardt added a penalty kick in the 51st as the No. 2 Crimson Knights edged the Mariners, 2-1, to reach the Shore Conference Tournament final for the fourth time in the last eight years.

Wall senior Jenna Karabin. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Wall senior Jenna Karabin. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Wall once again advanced despite playing without senior forward and Princeton commit Amy Paternoster, who suited up to play and was originally slated to start, but her sprained right foot caused her enough pain during warm-ups to keep her out. According to Wall coach Mike Juska, Paternoster - who has 29 goals and 20 assists this year - will sit out Thursday night's championship game against top-seeded Freehold Township.

"Amy's a huge part of this team, but we have 12 seniors, so we know somebody is going to step up to fill in a role," said senior defender and captain Maggie Wishart, who is playing through a shin injury of her own that she also suffered two games ago. "If it's not Amy scoring a goal, it's Lauren Karabin. If it's not Lauren Karabin, it's Jenna Karabin or Sarah Gordon. There are just so many of us; yeah, me and Amy are the captains, but we are all captains in a way."

Wishart helped lead the defensive effort in front of sophomore goalkeeper Jordan Cheche and senior Joan Scheidt controlled the midfield, both offensively and defensively.

"Tonight was probably the best game I've ever seen Joan play," Juska said. "Out of everybody on the field today, I thought she played the best. She was the best player tonight."

Just as they did in a 6-2 win over Colts Neck in Saturday's quarterfinal round, the Crimson Knights did an effective job creating shots, even if their Wednesday attack resulted in a more modest goal output. During the first half, Wall dominated possession and doubled up Toms River North in shots, 8-4. The Crimson Knights also doubled the opposition in shots for the game, 14-7.

Wall's play resulted in the game's first goal with 4:50 left to play in the first half. Senior Lauren Karabin put the ball in play with a throw-in and the Toms River North defense knocked it away from the goal. After multiple bounces, Jenna Karabin one-timed a volley from 16 yards out that bounced into the far right side netting to open the scoring.

"They (Toms River North) did a really good job marking up in the box," Jenna Karabin said. "We finished enough of our opportunities that we had, but we would like to finish a few more."

Toms River North had its best chance to equalize off a corner kick when a header by senior Riley Kennett sailed just over the crossbar. It turned out to be a costly opportunity for the Mariners, who Kennett for the game after she suffered a cut on her head on the play.

Wall tacked on a much-needed insurance goal in the 51st minute thanks to a handball in the 18-yard box committed by Toms River North. Paternoster is the Knights' go-to penalty-taker, and with her on the sideline, Reinhardt stepped to the spot and drained the attempt.

"We definitely felt better (after the second goal) but we didn't want to sit on the two-goal lead," Jenna Karabin said. "With how they scored, it was all pressure for the last five or ten minutes. We wanted to score more than one in the second half, but with how our team is playing, I think we were okay with the two goals."

The penalty kick tuned out to be crucial because Toms River North got on the board in the 72nd minute. Royson slid the ball up the left flank to junior Maddy Bennert, who skipped a cross to junior Marisa Tava in front of the goal. Tava settled the ball and punched an clean shot into the upper right of the goal to break up the Wall shutout and keep the Mariners in the game.

Wall's defense clamped down over the final seven-plus minutes to seal the win. The 2-1 finish was the closest game Wall has played since a 1-1 draw to Middletown South on Sept. 28.

"These are my favorite games," Wishart said. "During the regular season, it's fun to play soccer, but I love to play rough soccer. I have older brothers. I have older boy cousins. That's how I grew up playing, so this is fun for me."

On Thursday night at Ocean, Wall will aim for its third ever Shore Conference Tournament championship when the Crimson Knights face top-seeded and undefeated Freehold Township for the second time this year. Freehold Township beat Wall, 3-1, back on Sept. 16 to hand the Crimson Knights their only loss of the season and Paternoster scored the lone Wall goal of the game to give her team an early 1-0 lead.

The 12 Wall seniors on this year's team were freshmen when the program last won the SCT title in 2014, when the Crimson Knights beat Colts Neck in the championship game.

"That one loss really affected us," Jenna Karabin said of the Freehold Township loss. "We came out hard every single game after that. We did not want to lose again. Playing (Freehold Township) in the finals is just going to heighten our intensity even more."


Box Score

Wall 2, Toms River North 1

TR North (16-2)011
Wall (18-1-1)112

Goals (Assists): (TRN) Marisa Tava (Maddy Bennert) 72'; (W) Jenna Karabin 36', Hailee Reinhardt (PK) 51'
Shots: Wall, 14-7
Saves: (TRN) Cameron Kennett 6; (W) Jordan Cheche 3


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