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Allentown edges Middletown South for first Group 3 girls’ soccer title

On Nov 18, Allentown High School Girls Soccer competed for the NJSIAA Group Three State Finals against Middletown South. The Redbirds went on to celebrate a 2-1 victory as the girls took him a State Final Championship.

The greatest season in the history of the Allentown High School girls’ soccer team was capped off with a state group championship.

The Redbirds defeated Middletown High School South to capture the NJSIAA Group 3 title, edging the Eagles by a 2-1 score on Nov. 18 at Kean University in Union.

Allentown senior Marin Hartshorn scored off a corner kick by junior forward Emma Pascarella for the game’s first goal with 8:38 left in the first half.

The second half looked like it was going to be dominated by Middletown South after senior midfielder Christina Sundt scored with 28 minutes remaining to tie the game at 1-1 and the Eagles continued to have the edge in time of possession and shots on goal in the half.

However, with 11:05 left in the game, Allentown senior Carly Roche received an outlet pass from Pascarella and hit a bullet into the net to give the Redbirds the 2-1 lead.

Both goalies, junior Abby Howell of Allentown and Gabby Cook of Middletown South, recorded six saves in the game.

With the victory, the Redbirds finished the season with a record of 22-1. The Group 3 championship was the first state title in the program’s history and came after  Allentown won its first sectional title on Nov. 9 by beating Toms River High School East, 2-1.

Allentown head coach Kim Maurer was blown away by her team’s performance.

“It feels awesome,” she said. “They deserve everything they get. I’m just so happy for them. Getting over that barrier of a sectional title was so huge, so this is just icing on the cake. That meant so much to us. We came into this game saying, ‘What happens, happens.’ So us winning this was really just icing on the cake to an unbelievable season.”

Maurer believes this team will be remembered as the best in program history.

“This is a season that we’ll never forget,” the coach said. “It’s going to go down in school history. They’re going to be remembered forever. We’re the only banner for girls’ soccer hanging in that gym. They’ll all be in the Allentown Hall of Fame in 10 years, so this is great.”

Maurer has high expectations for the team’s future, especially since she has a young team with a lot of returning talent next year.

“I bring eight starters back,” she said. “The level of this team is just going to go up. Knowing that these girls that want to come in and be a part of this program have to work [is key] because this is the level that we’re going to be playing at for the next couple of years.”

Roche, who scored the game’s winning goal against Middletown South, said she just knew it was her time to try to make a play.

“There were a bunch of girls in front of me, and I knew I had to do everything in my power to get it to the front of the net and try to score,” she said. “I dribbled through a couple of them, and I just hit it as hard as I could.”

Roche stated that the Allentown players were fueled by their only loss of the season: a 3-0 defeat to Steinert High School on Oct. 26 in the Mercer County Tournament final.

“It’s been such a roller coaster of emotions,” Roche said. “Ever since we lost in the [Mercer County Tournament] finals, we knew we had to make up for it, and we did. We just came out with more intensity, and it couldn’t have ended more perfectly.”

Pascarella, who assisted on both Allentown goals in the Group 3 championship game, was happy that the team was able to rally to win.

“It feels amazing,” she said. “I said that after the sectional final that nothing could top that feeling, but this definitely tops it.”

Pascarella had preached to the team about not getting down when it gives up goals — a problem she noticed in the lone defeat to Steinert. She was thrilled to see that the team didn’t give up after surrendering the tying goal early in the second half against Middletown South, stating that it showed the young team’s maturity.

“Pick it up,” Pascarella said. “Just pick your heads up. We had some backbone, and we came back. It’s been great.”

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