Washington Township players wear warm-up shirts that read “Make a Statement” on the back.
In a season filled with frustrating losses, the Minutemaids hoped the playoffs would give them the opportunity to do just that.
Saturday they delivered.
Senior Jessica Castorina scored with 01 seconds on the clock, giving seventh-seeded Township a stunning 2-1 win over No. 2 Cherokee, the 15th-seeded side in the NJ.com Top 20, in the South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals.
The ‘Maids avenged a 2-1 double-overtime loss to the Chiefs on September 24 and clinched their ticket to Tuesday’s semi-final at No. 3 Williamstown.
Senior Hailey Trost set up the dramatic game-winner by winning possession of a contested ball and breaking through a pass to Castorina, who was in net with teammate Lexi Diezergowski, and Castorina was able to get just enough of the ball to slipping it past Cherokee goaltender Jada Branford.
It sparked a wild celebration that saw the ‘Maids (9-7-1) forget their frustrations of the season – six losses by one goal, five by scores of 2-1 and another by 1-0 .
“A lot of those games we felt like we didn’t really deserve to lose,” said Township coach Katie Sachs. “’Make a Statement’ has been our saying all year. When you look at our record, all you see is a mark in the loss column, but you don’t really see what happened in the game. I think over the season the girls got frustrated with that, and I think that motivated them even more to make that statement.
Township had to go with a Cherokee team that had won eight of its previous nine games, all by shutout.
The Chiefs scored the only goal of the first half when Ailyn Rowe converted a penalty.
They still held a 1-0 lead with just over six minutes remaining, but Township stepped up the attacking pressure midway through the second half and eventually connected after Cherokee was called off for a foul. just outside the surface.
Sachs tapped junior Tori Barbara to take the direct kick and she placed the ball perfectly, just beyond Branford’s reach for the equalizer.
“Tori played really well and she’s one of our captains and I thought there was no better player to put the ball in the net,” Sachs said.
Castorina provided the stunning finish minutes later.
“Our players and our bench have gone crazy,” Sachs said. “I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. I told them throughout the game that we had to outplay Cherokee to get the win and they literally cut it down at the last second and did it. They were pumped up from the last time we played them and lost in overtime, so it was a little revenge there.
Township moved up to the Tri-County Conference this season after appearing in the Olympic Conference since the school opened in 1966. Ironically, they beat two of their former Olympic opponents, Lenape and Cherokee, to reach the semi-finals. finals.
Next up is one of their new Royal Division rivals Tri-Co in the semi-finals.
Township and Williamstown split their regular season encounters, with the Braves winning a 1-0 decision on September 13 and the ‘Maids winning the rematch, 2-1, on October 6.
One of the motivations for moving to Tri-Co was to establish rivalries with some neighboring schools and, according to Sachs, this is already taking root.
“I think this match will open up the rivalry,” she said. “A lot of girls from both teams know each other. The girls already don’t care. It’s going to be fun. I think we play a similar style of game and I think it will depend on who wants it more. I think we We’re two pretty even teams, so it should be a really good game.
Castorina leads the ‘Maids with nine goals and Diezergowski, a sophomore, is close behind with seven.
Township lost top keeper Kelsey Newton after graduating last season, but junior Lindsay Price has stepped up to fill that void.
“She’s playing incredibly well,” Sachs said. “These are pretty big shoes to fill. At the start of the season, she had to get rid of those nerves. She played a fabulous game against Cherokee. She went out several times and made some big saves. If she continues to play like this, we will have a good chance of winning in the next round.
Other stars include speedy junior Dylan Giloley, who has played both attack and defense this season, and second-year Antonella Castorina, Jessica’s younger sister, in midfield.
“There are so many surprises in this team,” Sachs said. “We have so many new faces coming up. We are quite young and it’s great to see how they have developed and established themselves this season. I think overall we’ve been pretty consistent. The girls played with a lot of heart and they don’t like to lose.
HOUSE OF THE BRAVE
Williamstown will host Tuesday’s semifinal at 2:30 p.m. and look to extend what has been a terrific season.
Since that 2-1 loss to Township, the Braves (14-4) have won seven of their last eight games, including 5-0 wins over No. 14 Millville and 3-1 wins over No. 11 Toms River East in the two first. rounds of the Group 4 tournament.
Leading 2-1 at halftime, junior Brianna Bruner scored her second goal of the game to give the Braves some confidence in their quarterfinal win over East.
The Braves, who repeated as Tri-Co Royal champions this season, are pretty evenly balanced offensively, with junior Angela Oliveto (11 goals), and Bruner and senior Olivia McMaster (10 goals each) leading the way.
Senior Madison Schill has over 100 saves and 10 shutouts in net.
Schalick, under freshman coach Will Kemp, is still alive in his quest to repeat as South Jersey’s Group 1 champion.
The fourth-seeded Cougars (15-1-2) play top-seeded Palmyra at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the semifinals, while No. 3 Haddon Township plays No. 2 Audubon in the other game.
Palmyra survived a big scare in the quarterfinals, fending off the No. 9 Pitman, 1-0.
Schalick, led by 43-goal senior scorer Kerri Jackson, qualified with a 3-1 win over No. 5 Maple Shade.
EAGLES EYES DISTURBED
Fourth-seeded West Deptford know their opponents well in the Group 2 South semi-finals.
The Eagles earned a third meeting with top-seeded Colonial Conference Liberty Division foes Sterling, who beat West Deptford 1-0 and 2-0 in the regular season.
They meet at Somerdale on Tuesday at 2pm, with the winner playing the winner of the other semi-final between No 6 Seneca and No 2 Haddonfield.
West Deptford rolled in the first two rounds, beating Lower Cape May and Cedar Creek by a combined score of 14-2.
Senior goaltender Ryann Iannotti always gives the Eagles a chance, and the team has plenty of scorers. Seniors Malia Acevedo and Lexy Yeager have 10 goals each, and rookie Lexi Varela leads the way with 11.
Fifth-seeded Our Lady of Mercy Academy survived a scare in the first-round South, non-public A, but Drew Coyle’s second-half goal was enough for the Villagers to beat Catholic Union No. 12, 1-0, Saturday.
Villagers move on to play at No. 4 Trinity Hall in the quarter-finals on Tuesday at 2 p.m.
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