COLTS NECK – Right before the second match of the 2017 soccer season, Doug Phillips, who was Colts Neck High School’s girls soccer coach at the time, made a decision to call a freshman up to the varsity squad to be to the Cougars’ new starting goalkeeper.
That player was Kaitlyn Torres.
Torres, who is a resident of Marlboro, had just entered the ROTC program at the high school and was not even thinking about playing at the varsity level at that time.
“The coach pulled me up and I guess he wanted to try it out,” Torres recalled in an interview this week. “I was really nervous because all the girls were older than me.”
Nervous, but excited for her chance to shine, Torres showed what she was capable of during a 3-0 victory over Neptune High School in her first varsity start.
Since that day, she has been Colts Neck’s goalie, making more than 400 saves and becoming the program’s career saves leader.
Torres’ achievements and play in net for the Cougars has led her to commit to play soccer at the NCAA Division III level for the University of Scranton, Pa., where she plans to study kinesiology (the study of human or non-human body movement).
Torres said she never expected to achieve all the success she has, but said she is thrilled her hard work has paid off on the soccer field.
“I was always hoping I could play in college, but I knew it would be really hard, so I was so lucky I was able to commit (to Scranton),” she said.
Coming into the 2020 campaign – her senior season – Torres was six saves away from 400. The only obstacle standing in the way of achieving that milestone was the coronavirus pandemic.
Torres and her teammates were unsure if they would have a senior season and took things day by day during the summer.
As it became apparent there would be a season, Torres was eager to have a chance to play with her four fellow seniors one last time.
The Cougars opened the 2020 season against Neptune – the team Torres had made her varsity debut against in 2017. Torres made eight saves and recorded her 20th career shutout, and Colts Neck defeated the Scarlet Fliers, 1-0.
Torres followed that match with a 10-save performance in Colts Neck’s come-from-behind 3-2 victory over St. John Vianney High School on Oct. 7.
The senior made 16 saves during Colts Neck’s next two matches against St. John Vianney and Red Bank Regional High School to help the Cougars to a 3-0-1 start. After four matches, Torres had 428 career saves.
“I was really excited to get (the saves milestone),” Torres said. “It’s a team thing and I am excited I was able to get it.”
With all of her accomplishments on the field, Torres said she will most remember the lifelong friendships she has made during the last four years.
“When I look back on everything, I am going to remember the memories and friendships I made with my teammates. Talking to them before and after practices and games. Those team bonding moments I feel are the best memories,” she said.
Torres hopes to help Colts Neck finish atop the Shore Conference B North Division standings and make a strong run toward a state sectional championship this fall.
Coach Kevin Hein believes that with Torres in net and the talented players the Cougars have in midfield and up front, that they will be able to compete for the division crown.
Colts Neck tied St. John Vianney on Oct. 10 and beat Red Bank Regional, 4-1, on Oct. 13.
Juniors Jordana Golove and Ava Gregorio have each scored two goals so far, while senior Ashley Cataneo found the back of the net in the win over Saint John Vianney and has an assist as well.
Senior Kiera Jacobs has also scored a goal for the Cougars.
Sophomore Carys Gardiner has recorded two assists through four matches and has found the back of the net twice. Juniors Madelyn Moore and Taryn Jacobs, and sophomores Juli Coniglio and Jena Koenig each have an assist. Hein said Coniglio has played very well as a center midfielder.
Senior defender Lindsey McNeill returns after missing the 2019 season with an injury and provides more leadership on defense along with Torres in net.
“I think if we play a full 80 minutes, we will be pretty competitive this season. The girls know how good they can be. Being competitive and being able to be out here and playing with their friends is a big enough goal. You always want to win, especially at the varsity level, but it’s also nice seeing the kids get the opportunity to come out again and have fun,” Hein said.