Tough schedule preparing Red Bank Catholic for state soccer tournament

Red Bank Catholic High School girls soccer player Jyvanna Harris kicks the ball up the field during the team's game against Holmdel on Oct. 30 in Holmdel. Red Bank Catholic is 5-4 on the season.

There were high expectations for the Red Bank Catholic High School girls soccer team heading into the 2020 campaign.

The Caseys are looking to build off a 2019 season during which they won the Shore Conference championship and advanced to the finals of the NJSIAA South Jersey, Non-Public A state tournament.

With last year’s 25-goal scorer Morgan Cupo, sophomore Gianna Romero, senior Aubrey Silverman and junior goalkeeper Cleo Grignard back in the fold, the Caseys have the experience and talent around the field to compete for a state sectional title.

“We felt we had enough talent coming back to pretty much match where we were last year,” Coach Frank Lawrence said. “Our expectations were high. We had some good freshmen coming in that we felt could help us right away. You just didn’t know how everyone would gel together with playing in different roles.”

After falling to a strong Hunterdon Central Regional High School team from Flemington, Hunterdon County, in its season opener on Oct. 3, RBC got a roll in its next five matches.

The Caseys scored a combined 15 goals in their first two victories over St. Rose High School of Belmar and Shore Regional High School of West Long Branch.

Following a second victory over Shore Regional, RBC went into a stretch of playing five straight matches against four teams that are considered to be among the top 20 teams in New Jersey.

The stretch began against Bridgewater-Raritan High School from Bridgewater, Somerset County, on Oct. 21. The Caseys won, 1-0, on a second-half goal by Silverman. The senior has three goals and three assists through nine matches.

The Caseys then dueled with DePaul Catholic High School of Wayne, Passaic County, in an overtime thriller on Oct. 24. Romero scored her first goal in a 2-1 overtime victory as RBC improved to 5-1.

“We played to the best of our ability in that game,” Lawrence said of the win over DePaul. “We have had a really hard schedule and those were two really good wins.”

Romero has two goals and two assists through nine matches. Lawrence said Romero has done a good job stepping up to be an important goal scorer and said the sophomore has played well this season.

Freshman Jyvanna Harris, junior Abby Nadjzinowicz and sophomores Noel Pauwels and Sophia Racioppi are younger players who have exceeded Lawrence’s expectations thus far.

Nadjzinowicz has scored three goals, while Pauwels leads the team in assists with four.

RBC hit a bit of a slide in its last three matches against undefeated Holmdel High School and Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School.

Holmdel beat RBC, 2-1, on Oct. 27, and then rolled to a 5-0 victory over the Caseys on Oct. 30.

Against Rumson-Fair Haven on Halloween, the match was tied 2-2 at halftime as Cupo and senior Emma Bruther each found the back of the net for the Caseys. In the second half, the Bulldogs scored twice to seal a 4-2 victory and drop RBC to 5-4.

Cupo led the team with six goals through nine matches.

Lawrence believes the tough five-game stretch took a toll on the Caseys and said, “We were coming off a couple of tough games and didn’t play like we were capable of” in the losses to Holmdel and Rumson-Fair Haven.

“Our tough schedule definitely started to weigh on us. We need to get back to the way we are capable of playing over these next two weeks going into the state tournament,” the coach said.

The eighth-year coach expects his players to bounce back with two contests each against Monmouth Regional High School of Tinton Falls and Ocean Township High School to complete the 2020 regular season.

As RBC prepares for the state sectional tournament, Lawrence said he will start to give the squad’s younger players more playing time to determine if they can contribute in post-season play.

“I like our chances going forward if we can play like we are capable of when we get to the state tournament. The fact we are playing right now is a bonus and we are all fortunate to be coaching and playing in real games this season.

“These kids are dealing with a lot right now and we as coaches can only control a certain number of things. I am going to be thrilled if we are able to play to the end and I look forward to seeing us get to that point,” the coach said.

RBC will play Monmouth Regional on Nov. 2 in Tinton Falls.