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Jaffe scores overtime winner to lift Eagles to CJ Group III soccer crown

Senior captain Makayla Jaffe was not going to let a lingering hamstring injury deny her from helping the Middletown South High School girls soccer team from winning its third state sectional tournament championship since 2017.

Jaffe delivered a gutsy performance for the No. 3 seed Eagles against No. 5 seed Brick Memorial High School of Brick Township in the 2022 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship match on Nov. 5 in Middletown.

With just over 2:00 left in double overtime and the match tied, 2-2, Jaffe scored the game-winning goal to propel the Eagles to a 3-2 victory and the sectional crown.

“It feels amazing,” Jaffe said. “We have put so much work into this (season) and everyone wanted (to win a championship) so bad. It just feels amazing. I couldn’t be happier.”

Jaffe, who was a member of the Eagles’ last state sectional tournament championship team in 2019, scored two goals in the victory over Brick Memorial.

The senior forward described her performance in this year’s sectional final as “special” and she could not have been happier to walk off the turf field at Middletown South one last time as a two-time sectional champion.

“It feels great. To have one ring is so special, but to have two is just out of this world. I wouldn’t trade anything for that,” Jaffe said.

In the first half, Jaffe gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead in the 35th minute. A great pass upfield by Jenn Schuster led to Jaffe’s goal five minutes before halftime.

In the second half, Brick Memorial tied the match, 1-1, in the 56th minute as Brooke DeAlmeida found the back of the Middletown South net following a corner kick into the area.

The score remained tied heading into the final 10 minutes when freshman Bea Tinoco made a game-changing play to help the Eagles regain the lead.

Tinoco stole the ball from a Brick Memorial defender at midfield and then outraced everyone to beat the Mustangs’ keeper and score her 21st goal of the season to give Middletown South a 2-1 lead in the 71st minute.

“When I got the ball (at midfield), I told myself not to get stressed out and just go for it,” Tinoco said. “My calmness helped me put (the ball) in the back of the net.”

Brick Memorial answered in the 75th minute on a goal by Mia Caruso to tie the match at 2-2. Five minutes later the 80 minutes of regulation ended with the teams even.

In the state tournament, two 10-minute overtime periods will be played until one team scores a “golden goal” (game-winner). If neither team scores in the two overtime periods, the game is decided by penalty kicks.

Before overtime began, Middletown South Coach Megan Barry huddled her players on the sideline to calm their nerves as they prepared to enter the biggest moment of the game.

“I kept reminding them not to let this tension freak them out,” she said. “This is what a championship game should feel like, so just battle through it mentally and the results will come.”

Neither team scored in the first 10-minute overtime and the first seven minutes of the second 10-minute overtime also passed without a goal.

With just over 2:00 to play in the second overtime, a hand ball was called on Brick Memorial within firing range of the Mustangs’ net.

Barry could sense this was her team’s chance to win the game and the Eagles proved that to be the case.

Senior Abby Doherty took the free kick and drilled the ball into the area. Jaffe came up with the ball and in one smooth motion she deflected it with her right foot past the goalkeeper for the game-winning goal.

Having also helped Middletown South win a state sectional tournament championship in 2019, Doherty said it was very cool that she and Jaffe both contributed on the game-winning goal to help the team win another title.

“Me and Makayla have talked since freshman year about winning another championship. We didn’t think it would take this long, but it feels that much better to win it on our home turf one last time,” Doherty said.

All three of Middletown South’s championships since 2017 have come under the leadership of Barry, who is in her eighth season as head coach of the Eagles.

She said she is “so happy” to have helped her alma mater win three state sectional tournament championships during her head coaching tenure.

“This is what it’s all about. When I came in eight years ago, the goal was to have a winning team and to see the girls be successful. To see them happy and to see them winning, I can’t ask for anything else,” Barry said.

Middletown South (14-4-1) will play South Jersey Group III state sectional tournament champion Cherry Hill West in the Group III state tournament semifinals on Nov. 8 in Cherry Hill. The winner will advance to the Group III state tournament championship match.

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