JACKSON – The players on the Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer team learned how resilient they were after they started the 2021 season with an 0-5-1 record.
Coach Sean Bayha saw his team fight back from a tough start to finish the season with an 11-9-1 record. The Jaguars qualified for the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament and reached the quarterfinals.
Having a “never give up” mentality was the reason why the Jaguars were able to turn the season around, Bayha said.
The fourth-year coach said the members of the Jaguars’ 2022 squad need to have that same type of mindset if they want to have success.
“They (players returning from 2021) saw last year to never give up. Any time you can look back and see something visually and use it as an example, it can always be a positive. But at the end of the day, this is a new group of girls and they need to do it,” Bayha said.
Jackson Memorial has several key returning players, starting with junior Renee Wanzor (striker) and senior Chloe Messer (midfield).
Wanzor scored four goals and added four assists during her sophomore season, while Messer scored four goals and added two assists during her junior campaign.
Junior center back Caitlin Mahala returns to anchor the defense. Junior midfielder Morgan Korinchak has varsity experience and will play a key role on defense.
Freshman Alexa Berkley is expected to be a new addition to the starting lineup as an outside back.
Gianna Berkley, Alexa’s sister, will succeed the graduated Brooke McKown as the team’s starting goalkeeper.
Bayha said the Berkley sisters have played well during the preseason.
Jackson Memorial will open the 2022 campaign on Sept. 8 with a home match against Brick Township High School.
The biggest challenge for the Jaguars as they head into opening day will be piecing together a starting formation and improving as a unit, said Bayha.
The Jaguars have been tested during preseason with scrimmages against competitive opponents from Ocean City, Middletown South, Colts Neck and Rumson-Fair Haven.
There have been ups and downs in the weeks leading up to the season opener, but Bayha believes things will work themselves out during the season when the players are hitting on all cylinders and following the example of last year’s squad which never gave up despite having a tough start.
“I think we are going to be a better team by the end of the year,” the coach said.