Lenape High School’s girls’ soccer team may have won the last six South Jersey Group IV championships, but that didn’t mean nerves weren’t a factor in their title game bout with Eastern High School on Thursday afternoon.
After surviving a scoreless first half, the Indians settled down and scored twice in the second half to defeat the Vikings 2–0 and win a seventh straight sectional championship.
“We made a few adjustments,” Lenape head coach Kevin Meder said. “We wanted to settle down a little bit.”
Nerves and mental mistakes contributed to Eastern getting a few offensive breaks late in the first half.
However, Lenape goalkeeper Alicia Hampton stood strong in net. The junior made a spectacular stop on Eastern’s Sydney Jackson with 14 minutes left in the first half.
A few minutes later, Jen Civatte got behind the defense for the Vikings, but again Hampton made a great save to keep Eastern scoreless.
Once the second half rolled around, Lenape looked like the team that had mowed everyone down thus far in the playoffs.
“Once we realized we got this, we settled down,” junior Marissa Topolski said. “We finally realized the team that was going to win this game was the team with the most heart.”
Topolski’s perseverance paid off with just under 17 minutes remaining in the second half. Junior Kenie Wright made a beautiful pass into the box that resulted in a loose ball in front of the Eastern net.
The ball found its way to Topolski, who blasted it past Eastern goalkeeper Imani Taylor to give the Indians a 1–0 lead.
“I thought all we needed was that first goal to get the energy we needed,” Topolski said.
Lenape remained in control the rest of the way. With a one-goal lead, they focused on isolating Eastern’s leading scorer Amirah Ali. Ali struggled to get any room in final 10 minutes. Every time she touched the ball, two or more Lenape defenders were right on top of her, preventing her from making any plays.
The game was iced with 1:59 remaining, as Wright scored on a penalty kick to put Lenape on top 2–0.
At that point, any nerves that may have remained were replaced with jubilation for the Indians.
After receiving their championship trophy, Meder presented each member of the team with a championship t-shirt. On the back, the number seven loomed large.
“Seven times is unbelievable,” Kenney said as she proudly sported her new shirt.
Meder knows that the win was huge for his team, but he also knows that his team’s journey is far from over. Lenape is looking to avenge last year’s loss in the state semifinals and return to their throne as the best in New Jersey.
“The kids are really focused on that,” Meder said. “Come tomorrow, they’ll be ready to get back to work.”