JACKSON — In the eyes of Jackson Liberty High School girls soccer coach Dana Costello, the 2021 season was a building block for the program.
In her third season at the helm, Costello saw the Lions make strides as they finished the campaign with a 9-8 record.
In 2022, Costello has seen her players continue to improve. After eight matches the Lions are 5-3 and the fourth year coach believes bigger things are on the horizon.
“We want to make a run in the Shore Conference Tournament and make a run in the states this season. We are not just happy with just getting in (the tournaments). That’s the old Jackson Liberty. This is a different program,” Costello said.
Junior Chelsea Lavezzo has returned up front after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee midway through the 2021 season.
Before her 2021 season came to an end, Lavezzo had scored 11 goals scored in six games.
In her return to the lineup this season, Lavezzo leads the Lions with six goals and she has contributed four assists.
“I think she is having an unbelievable season so far,” Costello said. “She is even better than she was last year. The kid plays hard from start to finish.”
Junior Sam Leidenheimer, sophomores Delaney Spalthoff and Kathryn Spalthoff, and seniors Seanna Boan, Alyssa Galayda, Sienna Bohrer, Allison Wehner and Camryn Wise are all varsity returners for the Lions.
Boan is off to a great start in her senior year with two goals and six assists, while Delaney Spalthoff has scored six goals.
Wise, who returns for her third varsity season as the Lions’ goalkeeper, has been solid in net with 64 saves and two shutouts thus far.
Senior defender Abigail Bannon is a new addition to the starting lineup and Costello has been impressed with her play thus far.
The Lions got off to a 4-0 start before losing three of their next four matches. On Sept. 23, the Lions fell to Toms River South High School, 2-1, in Jackson.
The Indians scored twice in the first 22 minutes and led 2-0 at halftime. The Lions cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 52nd minute as Delaney Spalthoff scored off a sparkling pass from Lavezzo, but that was the only goal they could put past the Indians’ keeper.
Jackson Liberty (@JacksonLiberty4) gets on the board in the 52nd minute. Delaney Spalthoff with the goal. Assist to Chelsea Lavezzo. 2-1, Toms River South. CC: @central_jersey @JLHSLionRoar #NJSoccer ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/R6HshEw8ju
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) September 23, 2022
Costello said the Lions need to come out hungry at the start of every game.
“I have been happy with the way they battle and with the way they don’t stop playing until the last second of the game. I just wish we would have that same energy at the beginning of the game. We have to change something. We will figure it out,” the coach said.
Costello said the Lions’ 3-1 victory over Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School on Sept. 19 was an example of the type of play she wants to see from the squad. She is confident her players have the skill it takes to win and said, “When we can finally put a full game together, we can be very dangerous.”
Jackson Liberty will travel to Manalapan to face the Braves on Sept. 29. The Lions will honor their seniors on Sept. 30 when Senior Night is held as the Lions host Donovan Catholic.