Surf Taco Week 8 Boys Soccer Team of the Week: Toms River North
If there were any postseason ghosts haunting the Toms River North boys soccer program, the Mariners have exorcised most of those demons over the past three seasons. Toms River North has won three straight sectional championships and is still alive in its pursuit for a fourth heading into the NJSIAA sectional semifinal round.
In order to make it to Wednesday's games, the Mariners had to beat a team that has given them fits during head coach Joe Mahon's tenure on a field that has not been kind to them.
On Monday, Toms River North finally slayed the former beast of South Jersey, Washington Township, with a 2-1 victory to advance to the sectional semifinals, as well as earn the eighth Surf Taco Boys Soccer Team of the Week Award.
It has been a while since the two teams met in the NJSIAA Tournament, with Washington Township beating the Mariners, 1-0, in the 2014 South Jersey Group IV final and two years earlier in the sectional semifinals on penalty kicks. In the years leading up to those losses, Toms River North won a sectional title in 2009 and reached the Shore Conference Tournament final and semifinal in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011, so the Mariners were enjoying a good run of success that Washington Township had a hand in spoiling.
Even when Washington Township's team did not end up eliminating Toms River North, its home field was where the Mariners' season ended in 2019. Hunterdon Central beat the Mariners, 2-1, in the Group IV semifinals at Washington Township, making it three season-ending bus rides from the home of the Minutemen back to Toms River.
On Monday, however, Toms River North's ride home was much happier. The Mariners kept the Minutemen in check for the first 50-plus minutes, then broke onto the scoreboard with a goal by senior center back Vinny O'Donnell in the 54th minute. After scoring the first goal, O'Donnell then assisted a second Toms River North goal by sophomore Josh Brazier 10 minutes later to extend the lead to 2-0 before ultimately winning, 2-1.
Before knocking off Washington Township, Toms River North had to get through Toms River East in the opening round of the South Jersey Group IV Tournament -- the third meeting of the season between the crosstown rivals. After the teams split the first two games in overtime -- with North winning the regular-season meeting and Toms River East the first-round matchup in the Shore Conference Tournament -- the Mariners edged the Raiders, 2-1, on Oct. 27 with goals from senior Jake Bennert and sophomore Christian Caso.
At 11-3-1 with a Class A North co-championship to its credit, Toms River North is enjoying another deep run despite returning just one starter from its 2021 South Jersey Group IV championship team.
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