By Wayne Witkowski
In an odd twist, Jackson Memorial High School’s soccer teams both lost by 2-1 scores in games that were decided after regulation on back-to-back days last week to Freehold Township High School in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals.
Both embarked on a new quest this week when they began play in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group IV Tournament.
“We were 18 minutes away [from beating Freehold Township],” Jackson Memorial boys’ coach Steve Bado said.
Following a Mike Schoener goal in the Shore Conference Tournament that put the 19th-seeded Jaguars (11-9-1) up, 1-0, No. 6-seed Freehold Township rallied back Oct. 25 by tying the game with 18 minutes left and winning in the extra session.
A day earlier, Jackson Memorial’s girls lost on penalty kicks, 3-2, to Freehold Township in the conference tournament. Madison Taylor scored her sixth goal of the season for the Jaguars (12-4-1).
Jackson Memorial’s boys then took on section favorite Cherokee High School in the state sectional tournament opener Oct. 31, when the Jaguars suffered a season-ending loss, 4-1.
On Nov. 1, Jackson Memorial’s girls took on Rancocas Valley Regional High School (11-7), which won eight straight games and shut out its last three opponents coming into the state tournament opener.
Bado felt the boys’ loss to Cherokee was closer than the score indicated and that his team was ready but wound up sorely missing Schoener, who leads the team in scoring with a dozen goals but sat out with a knee injury. Freshman Dan Russo has stepped in capably for Schoener twice this season and scored seven goals, which is third on the team behind Ben Patti’s eight goals.
Joe Schlageter tied the game against Cherokee, 1-1, off a pass from Ben Schnaak before a high Cherokee shot from 20 yards out with 18 minutes left was beyond the reach of Jackson Memorial goalie Joe Weinstein, who played in the second half after again sharing time in goal with Nick Kinzler. With the Jaguars pushing up in desperate need for the equalizer, Cherokee countered with two goals over the last three minutes when it had the numbers on the attacking end.
Many players had returned down the stretch from injuries after the Jaguars struggled early in the season, except for all-purpose, versatile player Christian Fryc. Playing primarily on defense, Fryc’s absence called for more shuffling by Bado of the lineup, as Kevin Luzzi was moved from sweeper to stopper, Chris McKenna went from right fullback to stopper and Chase Olejarz became the new starter in place of Fryc as an outside back. Schnaak was the other defensive starter on the outside.
“I’m proud of how the guys hung in there,” said Bado, who loses five players to graduation with 19 able to return for next season. “We were clicking at the right time [for the tournament]. We started off 5-7, and then we matured and guys got healthy and we made a good run.”
At Jackson Liberty High School, the boys’ and girls’ teams and their Central Jersey, Group III opening-round opponents all went into those matchups determined to redeem late-season struggles.
On Oct. 31, Allentown High School’s boys scored a 2-0 victory over Jackson Liberty (6-11-1), which ended the season with eight losses over its last nine games. Allentown’s young lineup came in with losses in four of its last five games but broke out for two goals over the first 17 minutes.
Zach Kokot scored the only goal needed seven minutes into the game off a through pass from Mohammed Kotby, who controlled a long punt from Allentown goalie Joe Jurik. A.J. Ariano added the insurance goal 10 minutes later beyond the reach of Jackson Liberty goalie Riley Fahnholtz.
Jackson Liberty’s girls (5-11) and Burlington Township High School were both looking to rebound from slumps at the end of the season for their opener Nov. 1. Jackson Liberty lost its last four games and was outscored, 19-4. Burlington Township was 0-4-1 in its last five games and was outscored, 12-4.