At 13-1 overall and 10-1 in conference play, the Riverside High School girls’ soccer team sits atop of the Burlington County League’s Freedom Division.
A freshman phenom is one of the biggest reasons for the Rams’ success.
Hailey Russell has filled up the score sheet, tallying 28 goals, good for 37.5 percent of the team’s output this season.
“She’s been a prominent goal scorer at every level she’s played,” Rams’ coach Greg Ogden said. “But I could never have guessed she’s score this way.”
It’s been a special campaign for the entire Russell family.
Hailey’s twin sister Hannah is also on the team and plays center back for the club. The duo will also play basketball and possibly softball for the Group 1 school.
The Riverside Russell’s don’t stop there. Elder sister Ashley was a three-sport athlete for the Rams. Their mother, Terri (Assante) Russell, was a three-year starter for the school in basketball.
A 1985 Riverside grad, Terri is in the school’s athletic hall of fame. Their father, Ron Jr., also competed for the Rams in the 70’s. The son of one of South Jersey’s most prominent soccer officials for years, Ron Jr. also officiated until 2014.
“I put a lot of hard work into soccer so I try to do my best every day,” Hailey said. “It’s very exciting. I think the skills of being trained since I was little have paid off.”
The sisters worked with trainers and coaches in the area as young as age seven. Matt Brooks, an England native, worked with the girls early and often.
Brooks first played professionally at 16 years old and competed in the English Premier League for four years.
“I always tell them all their hard work will pay off,” Terri said. “And it is paying off.”
The ninth graders understand how much their school – and its athletics – mean to the clan.
“It’s amazing because our whole family has gone there,” Hannah said. “It’s just great to play for Riverside.”
Thompson is Ms. All-America
Eastern star midfielder and Virginia Tech commit Jaylyn Thompson got a text message at 7 a.m. about a week ago from coach Jamie McGroarty.
He notified the senior of some good news.
She will play in the third annual Girls’ High School All-American Game in Raleigh, North Carolina on Dec. 5.
“His text woke me up and I was so excited to hear the news,” Thompson said. “They contacted us a few months back and asked for resumes and stuff like that. It was awesome.”
One of 40 players selected, Thompson will compete on the East club. Through club competition, she knows most of her team’s roster.
McGroarty chalks up the talented ability to bring energy and intensity from whistle-to-whistle.
“It’s great for her and her family to be rewarded for her efforts,” the coach said. “She’s just a non-stop motor. All-out effort every time she’s on the field.
“You need one person to kind of just set the tone for everybody else and she does that.”
That’s what Thompson, a natural defender but plays at midfield for the Courier-Post’s No. 1 team, uses as her objective.
“We still have all our goals ahead of us, but this season’s been awesome,” she said. “Hopefully it elevates the level of the other girls which is what I always try to do.”
Up and Down RV
It’s been an interesting season for Rancocas Valley. The Red Devils started out 5-0 then lost their next five, all by one-goal margins.
Last week provided big wins in the Courier-Post’s No. 10-ranked Moorestown as well as Burlington Township.
A 1-0 loss to No. 14 Haddonfield followed.
Coach Jay Flanagan’s girls got back on track Monday in a 2-1 victory over Bordentown.
“The Haddonfield loss was a big one because we had turned the corner a little bit,” Flanagan said. “We looked a little tired. We played coming off a night game and with Homecoming that week, I think it got to us.”
The fourth-year coach hopes his club can win a game or two in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament, which opens next week.
“If we lose, it’ll probably be by one goal,” Flanagan joked.
RV (10-7) has never won two games in the tournament.
Midfield inconsistencies have hurt the Red Devils. Caroline Rockhill (12 goals) and Kelly Moss (3) have touch but the Red Devils sometimes struggle to get them the ball.
Flanagan has had to use the team’s best player, Lexi Pestritto, in the back end. A three-year starter at center midfielder, Pestritto will be called on to move back to the position if the team needs a strike in postseason action.
She already takes most of the team’s free kicks and corners.
Even if RV can’t get to the third round, the next few years are bright.
The JV squad, coached by Brighid Marquess is 20-0 and won the JV Coaches Tournament championship with a 2-1 victory over Eastern on Sunday. They start 10 freshmen.
“We don’t get too excited about JV, but they’ve scored 83 goals and allowed five,” Flanagan said. “The future is coming. We know our best years are ahead of us.”
Mark Trible; (856) 486-2424; email@example.com