In 2018, everything came together for the Middletown High School North girls’ soccer team.
Led by a talented group of six senior captains, the Lions went 21-2, won the Shore Conference’s B North Division, captured the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 sectional championship and reached the Group 3 state semifinals.
Middletown North fell short of achieving the first state group championship in program history, losing to Northern Highlands High School, 1-0, in the Group 3 semifinal on Nov. 13 in Livingston.
But still, the Lions won their first state sectional title since 2005.
Between that and the final 21-2 record, the best in program history, Middletown North enjoyed a historic campaign.
“I knew we were going to have a good team. I had a feeling we could make a decent run,” said Middletown North coach Patricia Misciagna. “I never would have thought we’d be 21-1, sectional champions and getting to play in a group semifinal. It’s just been unbelievable.”
It was unbelievable because those six senior captains made the Lions strong on every part of the field.
Goalkeeper Haley Martin stopped 149 shots and recorded 11 shutouts. She was a big, strong keeper with the instincts to find the ball and the athleticism to make big saves. The senior also communicated with her defenders throughout each game.
“She’s very vocal. She’s been starting since freshman year, and she was a vocal leader even as a freshman,” Misciagna said. “Her style helps give everyone a lot of confidence. They also have confidence in her to come up and make big saves the way she’s done.”
Defenders Casey Bogues and Gabriella Triolo helped Martin organize the defense and keep opponents off the scoreboard. The Lions allowed 14 goals in 23 games. A team doesn’t do that with just a great goalie.
Bogues was also an offensive threat in 2018, posting eight assists.
“Casey and Gabby read the game so well. Gabby can slide tackle, stand someone up and join the attack out of the back. She sees the game and reads it well. She’s always in a spot to make a last second tackle and win the ball,” Misciagna said. “Casey has been more offensive before this year from the outside back spot. She can start the attack because she’s offensive minded.”
In a lot of games, though, Middletown North did not even have to play much defense because its midfielders controlled possession. Seniors Emily McCarthy, a center midfielder, and Kaleigh Harmon, an outside midfielder, dominated on that crucial part of the field.
Harmon recorded eight goals and nine assists in 2018. McCarthy scored six goals.
“Emily is a playmaker for us. She has a dangerous outside shot and helps get the play developed and keep the attack going,” Misciagna said. “Kaleigh has a lot of speed on the outside. She crosses it or gets on the end of the cross. She’s very aggressive.”
McCarthy and Harmon helped create runs and chances for their fellow senior captain up front, Lindsay O’Keefe. The forward accumulated 12 goals and nine assists this year.
“She comes back and finds the ball at her feet and looks to build the play from there. She has a great outside shot and she’s good at one on ones,” Misciagna said. “Lindsay looks to draw the defense to her. Then she slips the ball by them for the assist.”
“Together they provide a lot of leadership on all areas of the field,” Misciagna added. “It’s great because we have underclassmen that are able to also step up. They follow the seniors’ lead.”
Those underclassmen will be the key to continuing the Lions’ success in 2019. Leading scorers Darien Rinn (20 goals) and Ashley Dietrich (12 goals) will be back. Some other reliable offensive players, Katelyn Reid (six goals, four assists), Allie O’Keefe (three goals, seven assists) and Shaela Pearson (five assists), will also return.
With Bogues and Triolo gone, Misciagna will count on sophomore Carly Binn, a starter in 2018, to anchor the back line.
It is a talented group of returning contributors.
“We’ll miss these seniors,” Misciagna said. “But we have some players that have gotten experience this year and can fill in those spots, and build off the success of this 2018 season.”