WASHINGTON TWP. (Morris) _ Freshman Keira Prince didn't even play on Middletown South's varsity team for most of the year but that didn't stop her from ending West Morris Central's season.
Prince, on junior varsity before being called up late in the season, ended the Wolfpack's season by calmly hitting the game-winning penalty kick that gave Middletown South a 1-1 (3-1 in penalty kicks) victory over West Morris in a North 2 Group III sectional final on Thursday, Nov. 9.
Grace Massell scored in regulation and Middletown South (13-5-5) received penalty kick goals from Madyson Laudisi, Dina Kousoris and Prince. Goalie Gabrielle Cook had seven saves, including two PK saves, for the Eagles.
Emily DeGuyter scored a regulation goal and Annie Mauldin had a PK score for West Morris (13-8-2). West Morris goalkeeper Ava Mamary had nine saves, twp of them on penalty-kick attempts during the shootout, but it wasn't enough.
"They fought hard,'' West Morris coach Ken Rossi said. "We shut down a lot of kids that were solid players today. They scored on a set piece. I thought we did really well shutting down their offense and the range of play.''
Mamary moved to her right to stop two Middletown South shots, including one late in the shootout round, yet she couldn't deny Prince, whose kick into the right corner to clinch the victory looked easy and effortless.
"At every practice, we were practicing PKs and she had this nonchalant form every time she stepped up,'' Middletown South coach Megan Barry said. "So I thought 'Do I really put in a girl that hasn't been on our team all year for penalty kicks?' She was so confident that I had to do it. She is someone I can count on, especially on that fifth one. She never missed in practice, not once. I knew that if I needed to get the job done on No. 5 (position), she would do it for us.''
It was a close competitive contest throughout with both teams scoring within in the span of a minute.
Massell scored on a breakaway triggered by a Kousoris free kick with 13 minutes left in the half. Deguyter's direct kick hit the right side of the net with 10:28 left in the first half to tie the game.
"Emily has been superb all year,'' Rossi said. "She must have won 50 head balls coming down the stretch. She beat 20 girls 1v1. She is up on set pieces. She's been end line to end line all season. Other kids feed off that.''
The second half and first overtime period was very competitive with both teams getting shots off. The second 10-minute overtime saw a more conservative approach. It was obvious that the game was headed for a shootout result.
Overall, it's been a successful season for the Wolfpack, who made an appearance in the Morris County Tournament semifinals. That's why it's difficult to see the season end, mainly for some seniors who have played a major role in the program the last couple of years.
"Casey Lisa is a four-year starter,'' Rossi said. "(Annie) Mauldin, (Rachel) Wells are both three-year varsity letterwinners and two to three-year varsity starters. It's been a really solid senior class. It's sad to see them go. We have some retooling to do and we will see what we have for next year.''