The Toms River High School South girls soccer team took on its toughest test this season, facing Central Group III champion Somerville in a NJSIAA Group III semifinal game on Tuesday night — both teams fully aware that the winner would advance to the state title game on Saturday.
Once again it was Toms River South junior Taylor Troutman willing her team for a chance at the state title for the first time since 2002. Troutman assisted on the first goal and scored the second, as the Indians defeated the Pioneers 2-1.
Toms River South will play Northern Highlands on Saturday 10 a.m. at TCNJ for the Group III title.
Troutman took the ball to the far corner and hit a perfect cross that found the head of freshman Katie Hammack in the 15th minute to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
“There is just a connection between the two of them,” head coach John Crowley said. “Taylor always draws defenders and Katie always just seems to get in the right spot when that happens.”
The Indians took the 1-0 lead into halftime, and found themselves going with the wind in the second half.
“We really picked up the pace, and started to dictate the pace of the game,” Crowley said.
Troutman added an insurance goal for the Indians in the 55th minute that would prove to be huge for South.
“I got the ball towards the outside of the six (yard line),” Troutman said. “It was about to go out of bounds, I cut it back and got the shot off.
“It felt really good,” Troutman added. “My team has worked so hard for me all year, and I couldn’t have been here with out them.”
Even with a two-goal deficit, the Pioneers were far from done, as Somerville head coach Michael Kydonieus changed his formation, moving three forwards up top into their offensive third of the field.
The Pioneers finally broke through with six minutes left in the game off a corner kick from Emily Lockwood. Lockwood served a perfect ball and Julia Johnstonbaugh found the back of the net for the Pioneers’ first goal.
“This team has heart and never gives up,” Kydonieus said. “We pressed them and played it more direct, we were able to get one and almost got two at the end there.”
The Pioneers had one decent chance with three minutes left in regulation after another corner from Lockwood.
“Overall it was a great season,” Kydonieus said. “We won our division and our section, what can I say the girls were awesome this year.”