Will Play Central Regional in Saturday's Final
By Mike Ready
NEPTUNE – Red Bank Catholic is no stranger to playing in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinal round, having lost there on penalty kicks the last two years. So when the No.6 seed Caseys (16-2-2) and the Toms River South Indians (16-2), seeded No.2, battled to a scoreless tie in regulation Wednesday at Memorial Field in Neptune, it was déjà vu all over again, but with a very different outcome.
“The last two years we were in the exact same spot and lost on penalty kicks both times,” senior forward Grace Correll said after beating the Indians 1-0 in overtime. “It’s an amazing win, I can’t even describe it. This is our year; we’re not going down without a fight. Thank God Olivia finished it.”
Olivia is sophomore midfielder/forward Olivia Lucia, who scored the game winning goal six minutes into overtime.
Senior midfielder Elizabeth Thoresen’s perfectly placed corner kick deflected off Correll and into Lucia’s path, who placed the ball just out of the reach of leaping Indian keeper, Taylor Dean, with the ball sneaking in just under the crossbar.
“I couldn’t believe it actually went in,” Lucia said. “I didn’t know if it went in or not. I turned back around and I was like, ‘did that really go in?’ It’s so exciting… oh my gosh.”
I saw the ball coming to me off a deflection,” Lucia added. “I saw an opening and took the shot with my left foot; my right foot is my natural shot. We just wanted to go to the goal as soon as possible; we didn’t want penalty kicks.
“We have ten seniors on the team,” Red Bank Catholic first-year head coach Frank Lawrence said. “Olivia is the only girl not on our varsity last year. We recognized something special in her and her goal did not surprise me, it surprised her because she’s one of these kids who lacks a little self-confidence. We all knew she was going to do something special this year and tonight she proved us right. I have tremendous confidence in her; she’s a really talented kid and is going to be a great player for us for several years.
“To get a goal off a corner kick was awesome,” Thoresen said. “I think that was only our second of the year, that’s one of our biggest problems. To score off a corner kick in overtime is crazy.”
“Thoresen plays with enormous heart and works unbelievably hard,” Lawrence said. “She got knocked down all night and just kept getting up and playing hard. She made the decision to move from forward to midfield to help the team and does whatever it takes to help this team win; she’s like a coach out on the field.”
The game was an end-to-end, hard-fought defensive struggle with both goalkeepers turning back the few real scoring opportunities either team had throughout the game. The Caseys outshot the Indians 11-to-7 with the goalkeepers making eight and 10 saves respectively.
In the first half Toms River South had a chance to break the ice in the 26th minute when senior Forward Taylor Troutman found sophomore attacker Tori Babcock, whose torrid shot-on-goal was corralled by Casey keeper Jacqueline Robinson.
A minute later, Thoresen had an excellent opportunity but was turned away by Indian keeper Taylor Dean and Correll had a goal disallowed on an off sides call with about five minutes left in the half.
A minute into the second half, Dean picked off Thoresen’s cross to Correll just before Correll could make a play on the ball for a heads-up stop. Then in the 61st minute, Indians Samantha Bahr’s header off a Madison Kenny free kick was just wide to the right.
Troutman got a shot on net off a Lauren Mendez pass in the 67th minute with Robinson making the save and Correll almost prevented overtime with under two minutes to play, taking a pass from Thoresen after a steal and blistering a shot that Dean punched out of bounds. Correll’s rocket was the best scoring chance for either team all game and the beat save of the game as well.
Troutman came into the game leading the Shore Conference in scoring with 24 goals and 17 assists and the Caseys knew if they were to win, they had to stop her from scoring.
“We put Mandy Casten on Troutman,” Lawrence said. “She’s a tremendous athlete and great soccer player. I told her just before the game that she was going to shut her down and that was going to be the difference in the game; and it was.”
“Our defense overall was outstanding,” Lawrence added. “Kiera Farley was a rock back there and Maeve (Cowley) and Amanda (Caballero) were incredible. We have the best goalkeeper in the Shore in Jacqueline - she has 13 shutouts in 20-close games; that’s pretty good.”
“Our defense was absolutely amazing,” Correll said. “Amanda did an amazing job, the whole team played amazing; I’m very, very proud of them.”
“We’re already focused on Saturday night,” Correll added. “We’re going to win it, we won it my freshman year with a lot of these same girls on the team; it’s great to get back for our senior year.”
Correll, who had a tremendous all-around game, will be playing soccer next season at Lehigh University.
“Our defense got the ball out to us every single time,” Lucia said. “That was the key, if it wasn’t for them and our goalkeeper we wouldn’t have had the opportunities we had.”
“Red Bank Catholic has a tremendous tradition of winning in soccer (five SCT titles),” Lawrence said. “I didn’t care where we were seeded, nobody in the field scares us. I believe that if you worry about yourself first and play up to your capability, that’s how you win.”
“This is the hardest game (semifinal) in the tournament to win,” Lawrence added. “Getting past this game takes a lot of weight off the girls’ shoulders, especially for our seniors who lost in the last two semifinals. We’re excited to be in the finals and expect to win. We’ve proven we’re one of the premier teams in the Shore Conference.”
The Caseys will play No. 13 seed Central Regional (15-1) in Saturday’s SCT final at Memorial Field in Neptune at 7:00 p.m. The Golden Eagles are on quit a roll having just defeated No.1 seed Freehold for it’s third SCT win over a top-five seed.
The Caseys are hoping to win their sixth SCT title.
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