ROBBINSVILLE >> The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Nov. 5 announced the pairings for the high school girls soccer sectional tournaments.
All four Lenape Regional High School District teams earned a berth in the playoffs, slated to begin Monday, Nov. 16 at the higher seeded school for the first-round games.
Cherokee, Lenape and Shawnee will compete in the NJSIAA South West D (Group 4) bracket, while Seneca is penciled in the NJSIAA South West C (Group 3) field of 10 teams.
Seneca has Northern Burlington’s number
COLUMBUS >> If recent series history is any indication, Seneca has a great opportunity to win its first playoff game since beating Deptford, 3-2, in the first round two years ago.
Seneca travels to No. 8 Northern Burlington on Monday, Nov. 16 (1 p.m. start) for a NJSIAA South West C first-round playoff game. The Golden Eagles have held a 10-1 scoring advantage in going 3-0 against the Greyhounds since 2014.
Seneca is the No. 9 seed with a 4-8 record.
“Our seeding is fair and the seeding committee did a great job based off of the information they had to work with,” said Seneca coach Matt Abate, who is in his fourth year with a 26-41-5 career record.
The Golden Eagles (4-9) have won three of their last six games. This coming after just one victory - 7-0 at Winslow Township Oct. 6 - in their first seven contests.
“This season has been a great learning experience for everyone involved,” said Abate. “The fact that we were able to get through as many games as we have is a testament to our administration, players/parents and coaches.”
Abate said his team has remained focused despite not seeing many games go into the win column this season.
“The ability to stay in the moment and not let outside factors influence our play,” he said, when asked what have been Seneca’s strengths this season.
When asked what has been the biggest challenge in regards to dealing with COVID this season, Abate commented: “The uncertainty, in a normal season we have a schedule and we stick to it. This year for obvious reason we had to be flexible and I think everyone has done a great job with that. We consider ourselves lucky to be playing at all.”
Freshman Ava Palladino leads the team in scoring with five goals, while junior Abbey Johnson has four, while senior Lexi Dooley has been stellar in goal for the Golden Eagles with 106 saves and two shutouts to her credit this season.
Seneca has won two sectional titles in school history – its last coming in 2016 when the Golden Eagles beat Highland on penalty kicks, 4-2, for the South Jersey Group 3 championship. The other sectional crown came in 2008 when Seneca blanked visiting Lacey Township, 1-0, on junior Mary MacDonald’s goal in the South Jersey Group 3 final.
NJSIAA South West C First Round
Monday, Nov. 16, 1 p.m.
No. 9 Seneca at No. 8 Northern Burlington
Records: Seneca 4-9, Northern Burlington 1-3-1
Recent Meetings: 9/7/2018: Seneca 3, Northern Burlington 1; 10/16/2015: Seneca 4, Northern Burlington 0; 10/27/2014: Seneca 3, Northern Burlington 0.
Seneca Players to Watch: Ava Palladino, sr., 4 goals, 1 assist; Abbey Johnson, ju., 4 goals, 1 assist; Sophia Cooper, so., 2 goals, 3 assists; Gabby Miller, fr., 2 goals, 2 assists; Elizabeth Heinemann, ju., 2 goals.
Northern Burlington Players to Watch: Shaylah Moore, sr., 3 goals, 1 assist; Tanushri Aravind, ju., 2 goals; Victoria D’Imperio, sr., 1 goal, 1 assist.
Goalies: Seneca – Lexi Dooley, sr., 106 saves (2 shutouts); Northern Burlington – Katherine Surdykowski, so., 45 saves.
2019 Playoff Result: Seneca lost to Mainland, 2-1, in S.J. Group 3 first round; Northern Burlington lost to Allentown, 4-0, in C.J. Group 3 quarters.
Cherokee up for challenge of Williamstown
WILLIAMSTOWN >> Even though they are in different conferences, Cherokee and Williamstown are pretty familiar with each other.
The Chiefs and Braves have met each of the last four years, including twice in 2016.
Make it five years now that the two schools are paired up for a NJSIAA South West D quarterfinal playoff match Nov. 18 (2 p.m. start).
“I went to watch Williamstown play against Moorestown on Friday with the team,” said Cherokee coach Megan Boland, who is in her fourth season with a 30-36-2 career record. “I always like to see a team play to truly get a scout.”
Cherokee (8-3-1) and Williamstown (8-2-1) have nearly identical records and thus are seeded close together at fifth and fourth, respectively.
“At this point, we are happy to be given the opportunity to play in the post-season,” said Boland. “I would have loved for our girls to get a home game, but the committee didn’t see us as a top 4 team. We will have to prove ourselves regardless and to be the best you have to beat the best.”
Cherokee did beat the best earlier this season when the Chiefs defeated visiting Shawnee, 3-1, Oct. 22. The Renegades, regarded by many as one of the top teams in South Jersey, have just two losses this season.
When asked to characterize this season, Boland said: “Like a roller-coaster! We have had some intense wins followed by some disappointing let-downs. That being said, COVID has also dealt us a few cards throughout the season with players being told to stay home, so I think that is expected.”
The Shawnee win was in the middle of Cherokee’s longest win streak of the season – five games – which came off the heels of a 0-0 tie at Lenape Oct. 2 and 5-2 loss at home to Eastern Oct. 6 to open the campaign.
“We play well together as a team,” said Boland. “We do not have one crazy standout player or forward like most of the teams we play. We are pretty strong all over the field and the biggest factor is that we play for each other.”
What aspect of the game would Boland like to see improvement from her team?
“Consistency of play in the first and second half,” she said. “I would like for us to come out immediately and play with possession and intensity from the start.”
Junior Katie Fricker has 22 points on the season and senior Arianna Sparrow isn’t far behind.
Sophomore goalie Kailyn Roselli has 72 saves and three shutouts to her credit this season.
“Kailyn is a stud keeper,” said Boland. “She has kept us in games and has been a game changer for our program.”
What has been the biggest challenge in dealing with the COVID pandemic this season?
“The unknown. It is scary to not know each day if we will get to continue to play,” Boland said.
Cherokee’s last playoff win came in 2018 when the Chiefs went on the road to defeat Clearview, 3-2, in a South Jersey Group 4 first-round game.
NJSIAA South West D Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m.
No. 5 Cherokee at No. 4 Williamstown
Records: Cherokee 8-3-1, Williamstown 8-2-1
Recent Meetings: 10/7/2019: Cherokee 3, Williamstown 2; 10/8/2018: Williamstown 2, Cherokee 1; 10/20/2017: Cherokee 2, Williamstown 1; 10/22/2016: Williamstown 1, Cherokee, 0; 9/24/2016: Williamstown 2, Cherokee 1.
Cherokee Players to Watch: Katie Fricker, ju., 9 goals, 4 assists; Arianna Sparrow, sr., 7 goals, a 1assist; Alexandra Fasano, sr., 4 goals, 3 assists; Aly Mascolo, sr., 2 goals, 4 assists; Katie Ulmer, so., 2 goals, 2 assists; Nadia Evola, 1 goal, 8 assists.
Williamstown Players to Watch: Jessica Smyrl, so., 4 goals, 4 assists; Angela Oliveto, fr., 4 goals, 1 assist; Adrianna Cirucci, ju., 2 goals, 2 assists; Sarah Nasatka, so., 2 goals, 1 assist; Lexi White, sr., 2 goals, 1 assist; Riley Baker, so., 2 goals; Olivia McMaster, so., 1 goal, 6 assists.
Goalies: Cherokee – Kailyn Roselli, 72 saves (3 shutouts); Madison Schill, so., 62 saves (6 shutouts).
2019 Playoff Result: Cherokee lost to Washington Township, 5-0, in S.J. Group 4 first round; Williamstown lost to Toms River North, 3-1, in S.J. Group 4 first round.
Lenape looks to get on track against Clearview
MULLICA HILL >> Lenape will look to pull off the upset when the Indians take on No. 7 Clearview in the NJSIAA South West D first round Nov. 16 (2 p.m.) start here.
“Clearview is well-coached, athletic and fast,” said Lenape coach Jen Pfeiffer, who is in her second season. “We have to prepare and play our best game against them on Monday.”
The Indians are 1-6-1 this season and have been seeded 10th in their bracket.
“A 10 seed is appropriate for us,” said Pfeiffer, a former standout player for Lenape. “We are a good team, but have not gotten the results we’ve wanted.”
The Indians went on the road and beat Paul VI, 2-1, for their only win of the season. Lenape’s most impressive result might as well have been a season-opening 0-0 tie with Lenape district-rival Cherokee Oct. 2.
“In my opinion, our record does not reflect who we are as a team,” said Pfeiffer. “We are a hard-working and athletic group and have drawn the short straw some games.”
Three of Lenape’s six losses have been by just one goal.
“In order for us to make a playoff run we have to find an early goal and keep other teams off the board,” said Pfeiffer. “We need to have a killer attitude in both offensive and defensive 18s.”
The second-year coach is pleased with her squad’s teamwork.
“The girls work well together and communicate effectively on the field,” said Pfeiffer. “I have seen significant growth since we began our season in September. It’s a shame that we will go into playoffs with a month of being shut down.
Lenape has been on COVID restrictions since the end of the day Nov. 3. No games or practices have taken place.
“The lack of routine and normalcy has been the biggest challenge (in dealing with COVID) this season,” said Pfeiffer. “The girls are on an alternating half-day schedule and must arrange rides on days they are not in school. Our parents have been bending over backwards for their daughters and it has not gone unnoticed.”
Pfeiffer continued: “We have not been able to practice or attend school since Oct. 24 due to COVID, but the girls have kept a positive attitude during this time. We are excited to play again. I know we will not take playoffs for granted because our first practice on Saturday (Nov. 14) will mark three weeks since we’ve last seen each other.”
Junior forward Cierra Penny, sophomore midfielder Sydnie Wright, senior midfielder Katelyn Jones and senior defender Abby Litwin have been “some of our key players this season,” according to Pfeiffer.
Senior goalie Riley Kuper has 44 saves to her credit this season.
Lenape last appeared in a sectional final in 2014 when the Indians beat Shawnee, 1-0, for their eighth consecutive South Jersey Group 4 crown.
The Indians have just two playoff wins in the last six years – against Kingsway, 2-0 (2015, first round) and Egg Harbor Township, 2-0 (2019, first round).
NJSIAA South West D First Round
Monday, Nov. 16, 2 p.m.
No. 10 Lenape at No. 7 Clearview
Records: Lenape 1-6-1, Clearview 8-4
Recent Meetings: 11/5/2010: Lenape 2, Clearview 1 (South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals); 10/15/2010: Lenape 2, Clearview 0.
Lenape Players to Watch: Katelyn Jones, sr., 2 goals, 1 assist; Abby Litwin, sr., 1 goal; Kelli Mizia, 1 goal; Cierra Penny, ju., 1 goal, 1 assist.
Clearview Players to Watch: Mackenzie Clement, sr., 8 goals, 3 assists; Hannah Morgan, fr., 6 goals; Meghan Decker, sr., 4 goals; Adriana Careless, ju., 3 goals, 2 assists; Payton Foster, so., 2 goals, 6 assists.
Goalies: Lenape - Riley Kuper, sr, 44 saves; Clearview – Madison Wessel, fr., 56 saves (5 shutouts)
2019 Playoff Result: Lenape lost to Eastern, 1-0, in S.J. Group 4 quarters; Clearview lost to Toms River North, 2-0, in S.J. Group 4 quarters.
Shawnee meets Rancocas Valley again – now in playoffs
MEDFORD >> Shawnee should have a pretty good idea how to game plan against Rancocas Valley, its opponent in the quarterfinal round of the upcoming NJSIAA South West D (Group 4) Tournament next week.
The Renegades just played them on Halloween, coming away with a 2-1 home victory against the 6-2-1 Red Devils.
“We played RV just a week ago. They are a good team,” said Shawnee coach Drew Wagner said when asked if he had a scouting report on his team’s first playoff opponent.
Shawnee is 8-2 this season, earning them a No. 3 seed. The Renegades lost at Eastern, 2-0, in the season opener Oct. 2 and at Cherokee, 3-1, on Oct. 22.
“I am good with the seeding,” said Wagner. “I understand how difficult it must be to seed this year and I am just happy we are playing.”
Shawnee has been on COVID lockdown since the end of the day on Nov. 3. No games and no practices, but the school is eligible to return to play on Saturday, Nov. 14.
“The season so far has been great,” said Wagner, who is in his 18th year coaching with a 250-86-36 career record. “I have such a great group of seniors and I am just so happy that we are playing and that I have had the chance to coach such an amazing group.”
The Renegades have won eight of 10 games with strong leadership.
“We have excellent captains and an amazing group of seniors,” said Wagner. “We have three excellent midfielders - Tori Yost, Aleesha Deshmukh and Brooke Steel.”
If Shawnee is going to make a deep run in the postseason, Wagner would like to see his team capitalize on quality scoring chances.
“We need to improve on finishing goal-scoring chances,” said Wagner. “We create so many quality goal-scoring chances and we need to do a better job of finishing our chances.”
When asked what challenges dealing with the COVID pandemic present, Wagner commented:
“The biggest challenge has been the feeling of walking on egg shells, always worrying about when it might hit us ... and it did; we have been shut down for the last week.”
Steel leads the team in scoring with six goals and four assists, followed by Yost (4 goals, 2 assists) and Deshmukh (3 goals, 5 assists).
Junior Ava Rieger (29 saves) and senior Anna D’Intino (22 saves) have been a solid goaltending duo for the Renegades this season.
Shawnee has been sectional champions five times in school history. The last coming in 2015 (Group 4) with a 2-0 win against longtime-rival Eastern.
The Renegades won the South Jersey Group 3 crown in 2006 with a 3-0 shutout of West Deptford.
Shawnee was also three-time South Jersey Group 4 champions in 1994, 1995 and 1996.
NJSIAA South West D Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2 p.m.
No. 6 Rancocas Valley at No. 3 Shawnee
Records: Rancocas Valley 6-2-1, Shawnee 8-2
Recent Meetings: 10/31/2020: Shawnee 2, Rancocas Valley 1; 10/30/2017: Rancocas Valley 1, Shawnee 0; 11/7/2014: Shawnee 2, Rancocas Valley 1; 9/17/2011: Shawnee 4, Rancocas Valley 1.
Rancocas Valley Players to Watch: Kennedy Garcia, so., 9 goals, 4 assists; Rachel Satchell, sr., 8 goals, 6 assists; Ava Devers, ju., 2 goals, 2 assists.
Shawnee Players to Watch: Brooke Steel, sr., 6 goals, 4 assists; Tori Yost, sr., 4 goals, 2 assists; Aleesha Deshmukh, sr., 3 goals, 5 assists; Mackenzie McCready, fr., 2 goals, 3 assists; Mackenzie Kelleher, sr., 2 goals, 2 assists; Julia Stephan, sr., 2 goals, 2 assists; Olivia Vricella, sr., 2 goals, 1 assist.
Goalies: Rancocas Valley – Samantha Poljevka, sr., 43 saves (2 shutouts), Brianna Latham, sr., 23 saves (1 shutout); Shawnee – Ava Rieger, ju., 29 saves (4 shutouts), Anna D’Intino, sr., 22 saves.
2019 Playoff Result: Rancocas Valley lost to Toms River North, 2-0, in S.J. Group 4 semifinals; Shawnee lost to Eastern, 2-1, in S.J. Group 4 semifinals.