South Jersey soccer notes

Posted: October 25, 2012

It was one of those obligatory celebrations - marked by a distracted sense of triumph, one instantly trumped by what finally lay ahead.

The three Coaches Tournament battles the Eastern girls' soccer team had endured in the past week, tough as they were, were merely table-setters.

It's a mind-set that showed rather quickly after Eastern's semifinal win Sunday over Cherokee.

Players rushed the field, circled around each other, jumped up and down, but walked off the field as if they had just finished a Tuesday afternoon practice.

The championship game is where the Vikings thought they belonged, where they expected to be.

It was similar to the feeling that lingered around Lenape after its semifinal win over Shawnee.

The Indians had insisted, convincingly, that they weren't thinking about a potential showdown with the Vikings. But that mind-set turned on its head before the team left the field after beating Shawnee 1-0 - and that was before Eastern's 3-0 win over Cherokee.

"Oh yeah," Rachelle Ross said after netting the game-winner against Shawnee. "Right now, we're definitely hoping for a chance at revenge. We want to play Eastern."

And so it is: No. 1 Eastern (17-1) vs. No. 2 Lenape (15-3) in the Coaches Tournament finals, Saturday at 6 p.m.

Lenape, the five-time defending Coaches Tournament champion, vs. Eastern, the team that has beaten Lenape twice this year by a combined 5-1.

Eastern has never won the Coaches Tournament and hasn't played in the final since 2005. So it's a new experience for everyone on the team, whereas no Lenape player knows what it feels like not to win the Coaches Tournament.

Eastern does have the luxury of playing on its home turf. The Coaches Tournament semifinals and finals have, in recent history, been played at Eastern for boys and girls.

"I've been waiting to play in this game my whole career," Eastern forward Madison Tiernan said. "It's big to be playing at home. We're just trying to end Lenape's reign."

A sports cliché states how hard it is to beat any team three times in a season, regardless of skill level. But don't expect Eastern to alter its game plan very much for Saturday's matchup, which probably makes sense for a team outscoring opponents by a combined 57-6 this season.

"My thing is, they have to beat us," Eastern coach Jamie McGroarty said. "There's no sense in any gimmicks. We're going to go at them. They have to stop us. And we have to stop them."

On the rise. The Moorestown boys' semifinal victory over Lenape in the Coaches Tournament was its fifth game in eight days. All five were wins.

Moorestown (14-3-1) defeated Lenape less than 24 hours after beating Timber Creek in the semifinals.

"As you keep winning in these games, the kids can emotionally stay on top of things," said Mike Sutcliffe, who earned his 300th win as Quakers head coach on Sunday.

"And that can carry you a good bit of the way. We're fairly healthy right now, and I also have a pretty deep bench, which helps."

Mike Kassak, who scored two goals in his team's semifinal win, pointed to chemistry as one of his team's biggest assets entering the championship matchup with Cherry Hill East at 4 p.m. Saturday.

"Me and Michael Handlan have a great connection up top; not many forwards faster than us. Our goalie has been playing great, and our defense has been stepping it up," Kassak said.

Contact Chris Melchiorre at

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