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Jaguars make late push to secure conference tourney berth

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A four-game winning streak late in the regular season has pushed Jackson Memorial High School’s boys’ soccer team into the Shore Conference Tournament.

The Jaguars (9-7) are seeded No. 19 and play at No. 14-seed Raritan High School (10-2-3) Oct. 20. Only once in coach Steve Bado’s 13 seasons has Jackson Memorial fallen short of qualifying for postseason tournaments (2008).

In contrast, a five-game slump in recent weeks knocked Jackson Liberty High School’s boys out of tournament contention. The Lions (6-8-1) closed their regular season with a 5-2 victory over Manchester Township High School Oct. 14.

“Our young guys are starting to mature,” Bado said. “They’re clicking at the right time with their backs against the wall. We were 5-7 and won all three games to get in.”

Jackson Memorial also dealt with early-season injuries but outscored its opponents, 11-3, during its winning streak, including a 2-1 victory over Central Regional Regional High School Oct. 8, a 3-0 victory over Toms River High School East Oct. 10, a 4-2 triumph over St. Rose High School Oct. 13 and a 2-0 win over Brick Township High School Oct. 17.

Mike Schoener, one of the players out of the lineup in the early season, was one of three goal-scorers against Toms River East and drilled home a pair against St. Rose. He leads the Jaguars with nine goals and eight assists. Ben Patti, who has five goals, also was injured early in the season.

“If ever there is a time to get healthy, this is it,” Bado said, as his players returned to the lineup in late September. “As long as we stay healthy, I feel really good about our chances.”

Winning 50/50 balls and getting its game quickly into transition to the offensive third of the field are priorities for Jackson Memorial that kept it in the hunt for tournament berths.

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