Eagles defeat rival Lions, 2-1, to notch fourth victory of 2022 campaign


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MIDDLETOWN — For the last two years, the players on the Middletown South High School boys soccer team watched their crosstown rivals on the Middletown North High School squad win bragging rights on the pitch.

The Eagles and Coach Dan Riverso wanted to author a different outcome this year when the teams met on the field at Arnie Truex Stadium at Middletown North on Sept. 28. The Eagles accomplished their goal by defeating the Lions, 2-1, to improve to 4-3-1.

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“It’s huge for us to win this game after being on the wrong end of it the last two years. It’s a good feeling. Things are going our way,” Riverso said.

Junior forward Shawn McCann got the Eagles rolling early by scoring the game’s first goal in the 14th minute.

Some miscommunication in the Middletown North defensive end of the field allowed McCann to break free up the sideline and deliver his fourth goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.

“We had been saying all week that we had to score first. Once we got that goal we were able to settle things down,” McCann said.

The Eagles extended the lead to 2-0 in the 19th minute after Luke Strada was fouled by Tommy Valinotti.

Senior Alex Soto stepped up to take the ensuing direct kick and despite having been instructed to pass to a teammate for a shot, Soto went for goal from 30 yards out and put the ball past Middletown North goalkeeper Andrew Marinelli.

“I was so happy when I saw (the ball) go in,” Soto said. “That (goal) is going to reside with me forever.”

Middletown North got on the board in the 26th minute when sophomore Ryan Barnao headed in a throw-in from C.J. Crolius to cut the Eagles’ lead to 2-1. The goal was Barnao’s fourth of the season

In the second half, the Lions had several scoring chances in the first 20 minutes, but could not capitalize on their opportunities.

Later in the half, senior Nick Dean hit the post on a shot and in the 59th minute he sent a free kick over the crossbar.

The Eagles controlled the final 20 minutes of the 80-minute match to secure the win.

Middletown South is 5-3 in its last eight matches against the Lions.

Middletown South has already improved over its performance in 2020 and 2021, when the Eagles won only three matches during each of those campaigns.

Riverso believes the Eagles have shown a lot thus far in 2022. Among the team’s wins are victories over competitive squads from Marlboro and Freehold Township high schools.

“These boys know how to play together. From the first day we started training in July, we (the coaches) could tell this group was a little different from its team spirit and the way they work for one another,” the coach said.

In the girls game between the Eagles and the Lions, Middletown South senior Abby Doherty scored in the 76th minute, assisted by Lauren Ceurvels, to seal a 1-0 victory. Junior goalkeeper Allie Greco recorded four saves to earn her third shutout. Middletown South (4-3-1) has won four of the last five meetings between the rivals.

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