South Jersey soccer notes

Posted: October 11, 2012

Haddon Heights coach Brad Kent waited until after his girls' soccer team's win on Monday to break the news.

And after the cheering died down, a few Garnets players got a little philosophical as they pondered what had happened.

For the first time in the history of the program, the Haddon Heights girls were bound for the Coaches Tournament.

Just a "small Group 1 school," as they kept referring to themselves, selected to face down an Olympic Conference goliath in Cherokee.

"But soccer is a funny sport," said senior defender Aubrey Andrews, whose 13th-seeded Garnets will play No. 4 Cherokee on the road Friday afternoon. "A team can beat you nine out of 10 times, but there's always that chance. You never know what's going to happen."

Therein lies the essence of the annual South Jersey tournament, which will start for boys and girls on Friday.

"We're all just excited to be a part of it," Heights defender Mariel Migliaccio said. "It's good to finally be recognized.

"We think we have a very good team this year. So we're hoping we can go out there and show these bigger schools what we got. We feel like we have nothing to lose."

The Garnets said making the tournament has been a goal since they began working out in the summer. And under Kent, the team's first-year coach, Heights appears to be peaking at the right time.

The Garnets are 10-1-1. They are outscoring opponents by 38-6, and have seven shutouts. Their only loss was by 3-0 to Haddonfield on Sept. 15. But they bounced back to tie the Bulldogs, ranked No. 4 by The Inquirer at the time, on Oct. 4, 1-1.

"We're growing as a team," Kent said. "I'm a new coach. We have a new system. Some girls are playing new positions. But with each game, we're getting better and better. And the character and leadership that I have on this team is second to none."

Among the position changes was moving Pam Watson from midfield to forward. Watson and forward Taylor Nichols are the team's leading scorers.

"We've just been playing with a lot of chemistry," Watson said.

On defense, Andrews and Migliaccio lead a unit that has been largely unbeatable this season.

"We've always played well together," Migliaccio said of her relationship with Andrews. "We always have each other's back. We've played together since we they were five. We know what we can do. We know what each other is thinking on the soccer field."

That's part of the reason that, even though they insist they're not putting pressure on themselves, the Garnets are confident. They have their sights set on a Group 1 state title, and they can't wait to see how the Coaches Tournament shakes out.

"We just need to go out there and play our game," Nichols said. "Who knows what could happen?"

Boys' seedings. Kingsway coach John Green shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "Go figure." Yes, his boys' team earned the third seed in the Coaches Tournament. But, yes, they happen to be playing 14th-seeded Cherry Hill East, which knocked off Washington Township last week. That's the same Washington Township team that has been ranked No. 1 in South Jersey for four weeks.

"It seems like we're playing the hottest team in the tournament," said Green, whose Dragons will play Cherry Hill East on Saturday night at Cabrini College. "But really there's parity across South Jersey this year. There's no clear-cut No. 1."

In a season in which the rankings have been in constant flux, the boys' Coaches Tournament appears up for grabs. Timber Creek, ranked No. 3 by The Inquirer, earned the No. 1 seed and will have its work cut out against No. 16 Williamstown.


Contact Chris Melchiorre at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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