Jackson Memorial girls soccer team enjoying winning campaign

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Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer player Megan Anderson battles with Toms River South's Abby Olexa for the loose ball during a game played on Nov. 5 in Toms River. Jackson Memorial defeated Toms River South 3-0 to improve to 10-1-1 on the season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer player Chloe Messer dribbles the ball up the sideline during the team's game against Toms River South on Nov. 5 in Toms River. Jackson Memorial is on an eight-game winning streak.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer player Haley Alu surveys the field during the team's game against Toms River South on Nov. 5 in Toms River. Jackson Memorial won 3-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer player Megan Anderson battles with Toms River South's Abby Olexa for the loose ball during a game played on Nov. 5 in Toms River. Jackson Memorial defeated Toms River South 3-0 to improve to 10-1-1 on the season. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer player Chloe Messer dribbles the ball up the sideline during the team's game against Toms River South on Nov. 5 in Toms River. Jackson Memorial is on an eight-game winning streak.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer player Haley Alu surveys the field during the team's game against Toms River South on Nov. 5 in Toms River. Jackson Memorial won 3-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

There has been no stopping the Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer team during the last four weeks. Since starting the 2020 season with a 2-1 record, the Jaguars have not lost a match.

Jackson Memorial is 8-0-1 in its last nine matches, which includes eight straight wins that have lifted the Jaguars to a record of 10-1-1 going into the last week of the regular season.

“The girls are a great group to work with,” Coach Sean Bayha said. “They have been working hard since the second week of July. We have always talked about just getting better as the season goes on. They are playing their best soccer right now and it’s the best time of year to be doing that.”

The Jaguars completed a two-game sweep of Toms River South High School on Nov. 5 in Toms River to win their eighth consecutive match. Behind a two-goal performance by senior Hannah Reese and solid defense, Jackson Memorial rolled to a 3-0 victory.

Senior Lauren Dellegrippo opened the scoring in the 14th minute when she jumped on a loose ball in the box and rocketed a shot to the top left corner of the net for her fifth goal of the season to give Jackson Memorial a 1-0 lead.

“It came right at me and I had to shoot it,” Dellegrippo said. “I just knew it was powerful enough to go in.”

Coming into the match encouraged by her coaches to be more aggressive offensively, Reese heard what they said loud and clear and had an offensive mindset when she stepped onto the field.

The senior scored her first goal of the night with just under 13 minutes remaining in the first half to give the Jaguars a 2-0 lead.

When the ball was tapped back to her 20 yards from the Indians’ goal, Reese did not think about dribbling and instead took a shot on net. It was the right decision as Reese boomed a looping shot over the goalkeeper’s head and into the net for her sixth goal of the season.

Reese displayed her power again in the second half on a free kick from 25 yards. Although she is not known for taking free kicks, Reese told a teammate she wanted to take the kick and made sure she put everything she had into it.

The senior ripped a powerful shot over the head of the goalkeeper to clinch her team’s second 3-0 victory over Toms River South in two days.

“Over the summer I really focused on taking free kicks because I usually don’t do that for my team and I wanted to do it more this season,” Reese said. “I just wanted that opportunity to do it. I nailed it and it went in.”

In the Jaguars’ last three matches, Reese has scored five goals. She leads the team with seven goals.

Junior Victoria Pungello leads the team in assists with four and has scored four goals.

Senior Madison Faulkner has scored four goals and has dished out two assists.

“This season is just so special because you never know what each week is going to bring because of the coronavirus,” Reese said. “Each game you have to play with heart and passion. It’s just special to see my team come together as a family and play together. We have great team chemistry.”

Freshman goalkeeper Riley Miller had six saves in the second win over Toms River South to help Jackson Memorial claim its sixth shutout victory.

Prior to the Nov. 5 match, the Jaguars learned they had earned the No. 3 seed in Group F of the Central East Regional for the upcoming state playoffs.

Reese said the players are happy about where they have been seeded and believe they have a good shot at winning the group.

Although no official state champions will be crowned this season because of the coronavirus pandemic, Bayha said he believes that if the Jaguars run the table in Group F, that performance will count as a state title to the program.

The coach feels the same way about a Shore Conference division title if Jackson Memorial finishes first in the A South Division. Toms River North leads the division entering the final week of the regular season.

“If we win, we win,” Bayha said. “We are in a state bracket and we want to win that bracket. To me that’s winning a state title. We are constantly getting better. As we have gotten to the end of the year, you are starting to see things click on the field. We are really confident going forward.”

Jackson Memorial will face Brick Township High School twice in regular season play before hosting Monroe Township High School in the quarterfinals of the Central East Regional Group F tournament on Nov. 18.