WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP – For a brief moment there, Julianna Capano found herself at a loss for words.
“It’s amazing,” said the Washington Township High School junior soccer player. “It’s not even real right now. Oh my gosh!”
Capano was reacting to the winning goal she scored in the second overtime to give the Minutemaids their first-ever South Jersey Group 4 girls soccer championship.
Her tally came with an assist from Giovanna Castorina with 5:18 remaining and it gave the Minutemaids a 2-1 win Thursday over Toms River North.
The win earned Washington Township the chance to play Central Jersey champion Freehold Township in the state semifinals Tuesday at Rowan University.
Predictably, the celebration after the winning goal was a wild one. Capano was still struggling to control her emotions long after the outcome was decided.
“This means everything,” she said. “I live for soccer. This is my whole life. I just knew I had to do something for this team and I’m glad I got to do it.”
For the most part, the teams played on even terms, each waiting for the break that would decide the game.
Things turned Township’s way midway through the second overtime on a play that began with Milana D’Ambra reaching the box with a side-line throw-in.
Castorino crossed the ball to Capano, and she did not miss on her opportunity to end the game.
“I just tried to creep my way up into the box,” Capano said. “Then the cross got over right where I needed it to be and put it into the back of the net.”
It seemed for a second that players on both teams froze. And then there was mayhem.
“I just turned around to my teammates, waiting for them to come and congratulate me,” Capano said. “I’m ready for our next step in our journey to the states.”
Coach Bill Alvaro was gratified to see Capano score the goal.
The coach noted how Capano has overcome a lot this season, including a sprained ankle that kept her of action for a month.
“Jules is awesome,” he said. “We’ve been starting in the last couple of weeks getting her back here and there. And now she’s been getting back to pretty much what she’s been.”
Capano recalled that it was tough for her to get back to her old form.
“It was challenging getting back,” she said. “I was really frustrated with myself for a while, but then I started gradually getting better and better.
“I’m still not 100 percent, but it was great to score today and I feel like I helped my team. I just felt I had to do my best for the team.”
Aside from having an assist on the winning goal, Castorina also got Washington Township on the board first.
She made it 1-0 with a goal 26:35 to play in the first half. She took a pass from D’Ambra and, shooting from left to right, deposited the ball into the high corner.
“I was dribbling down the field and I cut around the girl,” Castorina said. “I was pretty far out and I’m not used to taking far-out shots.
“But I decided I’m going to go for it and the ball must have hit my foot on the right part.”
At first Castorina thought the goalie saved it.
“But once it hit the back panel of the net, my heart just jumped,” he said. “It was such a good feeling.”
However, if Toms River sagged, feeling the effects of falling behind, it was only for a brief time.
The Mariners kept fighting to get back into the game, and they did so when Marisa Taver scored for them with 4:23 to play in the half.
After that, the teams battled pretty evenly throughout the half and for the rest of the way.
Washington Township goalie Jordynn Stallard played tough throughout all that time, however, and she prevented her team from ever falling behind.
Minutemaids 2, Mariners 1 2OT
1 2 OT OT F
Toms River North 1--0---0----0----1
Washington Township 1--0---0----1----2
Goals: Giovanna Castorina, Julianna Capano, TR: Marisa Tava, Goalies; Jordynn Stallard, WT, 7; Cameron Kennett, TR, 6.