Girls Soccer – Wall Rolls to First Sectional Title Since 1998
WALL TWP. - The last time either the boys or girls soccer program at Wall High School won an NJISAA sectional championship, head varsity girls coach Mike Juska was a player on the boys team that won the NJSIAA Group III championship in 2004.
The last time the girls team won a sectional championship, the players on this year's team were not quite born yet.
The Crimson Knights scored early and poured in three goals after the midway point of the second half to cap a 4-0 win Friday over Steinert in the Central Jersey Group III final, clinching the Wall program its first sectional championship since 1999.
"It feels unreal to me," junior forward and leading scorer Amy Paternoster said. "It's definitely well-deserved for this group. We feel like we should be undefeated and it just feels great to show how good we are. It feels long overdue."
Friday's title game appearance was the fourth straight for the Crimson Knights, who lost each of the last two Central Jersey Group III championship games to Colts Neck and dropped a penalty kick shootout to Somerville in the 2013 final.
"Wall Township is such a big soccer community, so when you have a team like this, the town cares," said Juska, who has been to the sectional final in each of his four years at the helm. "The kids all came up through the feeder program and whenever us or the boys get to a sectional final, it's something that the town rallies around and comes out to support. We were close these last three years and I think that might have made the girls a little nervous, but they have just been really determined all year to get back and win it this time."
Junior Jaime Iorio came off the bench Friday to score two goals - both in the second half - and assist on the lone first-half goal. Wall jumped in front in the 16th minute on a skidding shot from the top of the 18-yard box by junior Sarah Gordon. Iorio crossed the ball from the endline on the right side to the middle of the field and it landed at the feet of Gordon. The junior pounded a shot on the ground that tucked into the lower right corner of the goal.
"The feeling is pretty insane when you come out and win one of these, especially getting to score two goals," Iorio said. "It's been since 1998, so it's pretty crazy to think we were able to end that streak. Plus, the whole town came out to see it, which was great."
"Even though she's coming off the bench, Jaime has scored some huge goals for us this year," Juska said. "When I put her in there, I feel like I'm putting in somebody who is just as good as whoever I take out. That's just the makeup of the team we have and the talent that we have. We could split the roster in two and both teams would be two of the best in the Shore Conference. It's that kind of group."
Wall could not take further advantage of the wind at their collective back over the final 24 minutes of the first half and took the 1-0 advantage into the second half. Steinert spent a sizable portion of the first 16 minutes in Wall's end, but the Crimson Knights began to threaten on the counter attack, regained control and added a second goal in the 62nd. Paternoster played the ball out wide to Iorio on the right side and the junior lofted the ball in the direction of the goal, watching it sail into the far upper corner of the net.
Paternoster created another dangerous chance in the 66th when she beat the defense around the corner on the right side and played a low cross to the front of the goal, where junior Jenna Karabin one-timed it into the goal.
Iorio capped the scoring in the 78th when she ran onto a through-ball from junior Meghan Corbran and slammed it into the goal.
Friday's shutout was the 20th of the season for senior goalkeeper Alex Panasuk and the defense, which has allowed six goals in 24 games this season. The win also capped a scoreless run through the bracket, which included a dominant 19-0 goal differential in Wall's favor.
"Our defense did so well today, I'm so proud of them," Panasuk said. "They did such a good job of playing the ball out. I couldn't have asked for a better job. They did a great job, which is what they always do. Nothing in the back of the net."
"Our defense has been so solid all year," Juska said. "We've given up six goals all year and it's not like we've been playing bad teams. We're playing the best teams around and we're still putting up a lot of zeroes. And then Alex Panasuk, I've been saying all year she's probably one of the best goalies in the state, so we have such confidence in her. We told her to play up off the line a little bit in the second half and she did a great job. She was all over the place."
The last time Wall allowed a goal in a game, it came in the form of a pair of goals in a 2-1 loss to Colts Neck in the Shore Conference Tournament final on Oct. 29. That was Wall's lone loss of the season and the Crimson Knights' response has been to dismantle the field in a bracket that it had not been able to solve for the previous 18 years.
"On paper, it might have looked to people like Colts Neck was just better than Wall, but to people who watched it, we should have won that game," Paternoster said. "We feel like we were the better team and we are playing this tournament to prove that we should be undefeated. No matter what, I'm just glad our year is going to be on that banner."
Wall 4, Steinert 0
Goals (Assists): (W) Sarah Gordon (Jaime Iorio) 16', Jaime Iorio (Amy Paternoster) 62', Jenna Karabin (Amy Paternoster) 66', Jaime Iorio (Meghan Corbran) 78'
Shots: Wall, 14-5
Saves: (S) Erika Golik 3; (W) Alex Panasuk 3