SEWELL – It’s not that the Eastern girls’ soccer team has forgotten what happened just two weeks ago.
It certainly did not escape the Vikings (14-2 overall, 8-2 division) that a shot at an Olympic American title went by the wayside with consecutive losses to Washington Township and then Shawnee in a three-day stretch. It’s also clear the Vikings are well aware that Shawnee (11-1-2, 8-1-1) claimed that same title this week.
The thing is when a division includes Shawnee, entering Sunday No.1 in the South Jersey Coaches Association Top 20 and No.3 Washington Township, long with Cherry Hill East, Lenape and Cherokee, perfect seasons are far and few between.
So equipped with a division title from last year, the Vikings travelled to Washington Township on Saturday more pragmatic than foaming at the mouth seeking revenge for a one-goal loss at home two weeks ago.
Instead, the Vikings have different objectives.
“State title,” junior Kelli McGroarty said. “That’s the goal. The team goals come first and that’s the big goal we have had from the first day of practice. We can’t win the conference but we still have two of our biggest goals as a team left, the Coaches Tournament and a state title.
“The personal goals really don’t matter.”
That said McGroarty scored a hat trick to bring her season total to a team-high 23 and sophomore Riley Tiernan registered a school record 20th assist this season as the Vikings beat Washington Township 3-1 in the final Olympic American this season for both squads. Both teams are positioned for runs in the Coaches Tournament, which the pairings for the 16-team tournament will come out Sunday and the New Jersey Group 4 tournament but on this day, the Vikings held the upper hand.
“I don’t think we played as well as we did in our first meeting against them and this time we won,” head coach Jaime McGroarty said. “We didn’t put the ball away in that first game when we dominated in shots and corners. Today, give (Township) credit, they battled and limited our opportunities. I know they were without (starting keeper) Jordynn Stallard but defensively, especially in the first half they kept us in control.”
Washington Township, which also lost senior Natasha Munro midway through the first half with an injury, opened the scoring when sophomore Megan Smith, found the net with 24:39 left in the first half. Smith’s second career varsity goal and first this season on her recent call-up from Junior Varsity had the Minutemaids feeling confident.
A confidence that proved short-lived as McGroarty found her way just outside the Township 18-yard line where she knotted the game at 1-1 just three minutes later.
“It was really the first opening I found today,” said McGroarty, who committed to LaSalle earlier this year. “Riley did all the work. She fought off a couple of defenders, made a nice move and got me the pass. I hit the shot well but the keeper got her hands on it so I thought it had been saved but I guess I hit it hard enough and it got past her.”
“You just look for the right pass,” Tiernan said. “”We knew they were a tough team and this was a physical game. That first half was even and someone had to make the most of any breaks we got. Tied at half wasn’t the worst thing.”
McGroarty wasted little time in the second half as she scored 4:08 into the half and then again, on possibly her best shot of the afternoon, a shot from outside the 18-yard line that curved into the near post for a 3-1 lead with 24:06 left to play.
“I haven’t hit one like that in a long time,” McGroarty said. “That was a nice way to finish the hat trick I guess.”
To its credit, Township tried to fight its way back into the game but failed to manage any really quality opportunities. Still, these two programs know very well that the season is far from over.
“We could see them two more times,” the elder McGroarty said. “I’ve been coaching a long time and know teams like Washington Township are not going to go away. That’s a quality team and a quality program so this means little when and if we see them again.”
Vikings 3, Minutemaids 1
Wash Twp. 1-0---1
E: Kelli McGroarty 3; WT Megan Smith.
Junior Kelli McGroarty scored a hat trick to give her 23 goals this season and sophomore Riley Tiernan set a school mark for assists in a season with her 20th in a 3-1 win over Washington Township.