ROXBURY TWP. _ There is no feeling like winning a championship and many of this year's Roxbury girls soccer players were convinced that one, or even two, in a row is not enough.
Junior Karly Forker connected off an Ashleigh Sarafin pass in the 69th minute and the Gaels' defense put in another solid effort in Roxbury's 1-0 triumph over West Morris in the Morris County Tournament final held at Roxbury High School on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Goalkeeper Sarah Olivero stopped three shots to give Roxbury its third consecutive county title and second consecutive title outright. The Gaels have won eight titles in all since MCT play started in 1983.
"After feeling how good it felt last year to win, we wanted that same feeling again," Forker said.
Roxbury defender Jamie Irwin earned Most Valuable Player honors. The Roxbury defense surrendered only one goal in four tournament games.
"West Morris is always great competition for us," Irwin said. "I think we just brought our 'A' game today and we were determined to win this one."
The win lifts Roxbury to 11-2-1 on the season. Third-seeded West Morris drops to 12-3. The victory avenged a 2-1 loss the Gaels suffered against the Wolfpack on October 5. Roxbury, which has a 3-0 September win against West Morris, also defeated the Wolfpack 1-0 in last year's final and is well aware of how difficult it is to beat a talented and experienced rival.
"They get better each and every year," Irwin said. "They are always a good team to play. Personally, I think they played really well against us. Their counterattacks are always great."
It was a spirited battle with both teams having scoring opportunities in the first half. A centering pass from Sarafin from the left side helped Forker split two West Morris defenders and create a breakaway situation that resulted in the game-winning goal.
"Forker took a touch past a defender and slotted it to the right back post," Sarafin said. "She is great when she shoots the ball. She has a very nice shot. She puts in the back of the net all the time."
In all the excitement, Forker wasn't quite sure which foot she used to put the ball in the net. Once she sidestepped talented West Morris keeper Ashley Applehans, she just wanted to make sure to make sure she scored.
"Ashleigh gave me a great ball and I just wanted to finish for my team," Forker said. "I just wanted to get a touch on it and under control and I just looked to the back post."
With a one-goal lead, the Gaels were determined to defend it. Although Roxbury uses a 3-4-3 alignment, all players have defensive responsibilities and work hard in support. Irwin, senior Shannon Miller and junior Christine Fleming are cool customers in the back and adept at making the right decisions and stepping up when necessary.
"We have such great chemistry together," Olivero said. "We pump each other up. It's not just one person yelling at each other. We are connected in some way. That's what makes it work. Irwin has been the holding back for as long as I can remember. She is the best defender I have ever played with these three years. When all of us combine, it is awesome."
Earning a well-played victory against a worthy opponent to capture a title. What more can a soccer player want?
"I think it's great,'' Irwin said. "It's my senior year so I'm really glad to finish on a good note."
Last modified onSaturday, 23 September 2017 22:33
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