Jaguars pointing toward big finish in soccer season


The Jackson Memorial High School girls soccer team rebounded from a four-game losing streak into a return trip to the Shore Conference Tournament this week.

As of Oct. 15 the Jaguars had won three straight matches and began the week with a 9-6 record. Two of those wins came over Lacey and included a 5-2 victory on Oct. 13. The Jaguars beat Toms River East, 1-0, on Oct. 11 to avenge a 1-0 loss that came at a time when the team was beset with injuries.

“We started off good at 6-2 and then we got into a funk, but in the past three games we’ve come back,” goalie Sydney Lavan said. “This is a good time for the Shore Conference Tournament for us. We have good momentum.”

The conference tournament was seeded earlier this week. The Jaguars were expected to play their first match of the tournament on Oct. 17.

“When we lost four in a row, there were injuries and we played bad, a lack of effort in a 4-1 loss to Toms River South and a 4-0 loss to Manalapan that was disappointing,” coach Drew Gibson said. “Then we lost to Brick Memorial, 2-1, and Toms River North, 2-1, and didn’t play that badly. Then we beat Lacey, 5-0, and were playing much better.”

The Jaguars are also bidding to qualify for the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament.

Outside fullbacks Elizabeth Navas, a senior, and Stephanie Costa, a junior, were out with injuries during the team’s fourgame slump, but have since returned to the lineup.

Gibson said his defense has returned to a flat back four scheme after playing with a conventional sweeper and stopper while Navas and Costa were out. Senior Karleigh Neidt and junior Alexa Alchevsky play on the inside on defense, which Gibson has said will be a key for the team in big games.

He said Lavan played very well in the team’s last three games.

“It’s definitely defense and communicating together,” said Lavan, who is headed to Monmouth University to play for the Hawks in 2013. “We have to continue to keep our confidence up and play hard.”

Senior outside midfielder Maura Peters came into the week with a team-high nine goals, with sophomore Becky Collimore playing on the other side. Tori Ahde, a junior, and sophomore Jordyn Greenblatt start in the middle, but sophomore Anna Mastrokalos rotates into the lineup for significant minutes.

Juniors Brianna Robinson and Chandler Lages play at forward. Robinson scored four goals in the Jaguars’ 5-0 win over Lacey. Lages scored the winning goal against Toms River East.

Jackson Memorial was expected to play Brick Township on Oct. 15 before moving into Shore Conference Tournament action.

“This week is huge for us,” Gibson said. “We’ll see if we play well and continue to get better. This is a five-game tournament (to win) and when we’re playing the way we can, we can play with anybody in the state. Now is the time for us to concentrate on the tournaments and if we get hot and play well, we’ll beat teams we lost to during the season.”

Gibson said it would be satisfying to himself and to his players to do that. Of course, winning a tournament title would be the best satisfaction.