By Matthew Rocco
The Shore Regional High School girls’ soccer team is in the driver’s seat for a division title, but the Blue Devils look ready to compete for much more as they fight to defend a state championship.
Shore Regional is coming off a 2015 season that included an NJSIAA Group I championship and an appearance in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals. This season, the Blue Devils have continued to show dominance on the field. Since losing to Freehold Township High School in their second game of the season, the Blue Devils took eight of their next nine games and grabbed the leading position in the A Central Division standings.
The team’s latest success came against Raritan High School, which was a second straight shutout for the Blue Devils. Four different players contributed to the 4-0 win, with Hannah Birdsall, Frankie McDonough, Julia Eichenbaum and Devon McDonough scoring a goal apiece.
The Blue Devils also defeated Matawan Regional High School, 4-0, after a second-half surge highlighted by three goals. Frankie McDonough found the back of the net three times, while Lauren Mendillo added a goal and an assist.
Goalie Julia Valinoti had three saves against the Huskies. Moira Hegglin also recorded a save.
Shore Regional (9-2), with an undefeated division record of 8-0, is leading the A Central pack with less than two weeks remaining in the regular season. Then, it’s onto the Shore Conference Tournament.
“If we continue to develop as we have, we should be alright [for the conference tournament]. We have some great teams in the Shore Conference. We’re probably the best conference in the state. It’s a tough conference, so it’s going to be tough. But the team will continue to develop,” Shore Regional head coach George Moutis said.
Shore Regional has overcome plenty of adversity. Multiple players are sidelined with injuries, and Blue Devils had to replace six starters who graduated after the 2015 campaign.
“Some of the girls are playing positions they haven’t played before,” Moutis said. “It took some time to gel as a team, but they’re getting better and better every game.”
Valinoti, a sophomore and newcomer to the varsity team, became the starting goalie when senior Claire Aikins was injured. Moutis said Valinoti has done a great job filling in. Aleka Damiano was penciled in to play center back, but after she went down with a knee injury, sophomore Marissa DeSantis took over the position and ran with it.
The Blue Devils are getting major contributions from other underclassmen, too. Eichenbaum, a freshman forward, has seven goals and five assists in her debut season. Eichenbaum scored one of the most important goals of the season for the Blue Devils, who beat St. John Vianney High School in the 99th minute of a double-overtime thriller on a goal by the newcomer.
Eichenbaum plays alongside sophomore forwards Birdsall and Frankie McDonough. All three players bring firepower up front and take pressure off Shore Regional’s defense, Moutis said.
Senior Devon McDonough and junior Sophie Hauritz, both midfielders, have proven to be key leaders on the field.
With the A Central title in their sights, the Blue Devils have three division games on the horizon. They were scheduled to host Holmdel High School Oct. 5 and will face Red Bank Regional High School Oct. 7. The Blue Devils will stay on the road to face St. John Vianney Oct. 11. The Lancers have control of second place with a 5-1 division record.