Middletown, N.J. - Nothing so far this season has shaken the Middletown South girls soccer team, and that was once again the case on Wednesday afternoon when the No. 2 seeded Eagles faced off against No. 10 seed Wall in the quarterfinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.
Trailing 1-0 going into the half, Middletown South rallied for three goals in the second half to hang on for a 3-2 victory over Wall to advance to its first conference semifinal in five years and improve to a perfect mark of 17-0 on the season.
“It showed a lot about our character,” said Middletown South girls soccer coach Megan Barry on the comeback win. “We came out in the second half wanting it more and expecting success for ourselves. We’re all very excited about it. We haven’t had this opportunity in our program in a while, so it was great to see us take advantage of this chance and make greatness out of it.”
A Grace Gisoldi corner kick goal in the first minute put the Eagles in a one-goal hole to start the game.
After a slow start in the first half, Middletown South got themselves rolling early on to begin the second half and it was none other than team-leading goal scorer Emma Laudisi helping lead the charge for the Eagles.
Showing great effort to track down Meghan Carragher’s free kick to the box, Laudisi was able to corral the loose ball through two Wall defenders and knock home her 50th career high school goal to tie the game in the 45th minute for Middletown South.
“I knew we had to get on the board and I saw an opening to score and I shot it,” Laudisi said. “We’ve been in that situation before. We knew that if we settled down and played our game, win our 50/50 balls that goals would come and that we would eventually win the game.”
Laudisi now has a team-high 14 goals on the season and now stands alone as the second leading scorer in program history.
A 1-1 tie didn’t last long as the Eagles saw themselves go down a goal again in the 53rd minute.
A foul by Middletown South goalie Emma Bennett in the box resulted in Wall getting a penalty kick and senior Alex Hummel took advantage of the opportunity for the Warriors, scoring her seventh goal of the season to put the Eagles down 2-1.
Being down a goal again didn’t phase Middletown South one bit, fighting back to even things up again just six minutes later.
Seeing a loose ball bounce back to her at the 22-yard line, junior Jordan Keagy boomed a beautiful looping shot that went right over the Wall goalkeeper’s head and into the net for her third goal of the fall to help Middletown South tie the game at 2-2.
“We practice those shots a lot in practice, so I knew one of these times it would go in and I gave it a rip,” Keagy said. “I didn’t think it was going in. I was pretty surprised and very happy when it did and that I was able to help my team tie the game. It felt really good.”
Middletown South stayed on the attack after tying the game, aggressively pushing the ball into the Wall zone and was able to gain its first lead of the contest in the 60th minute.
Coming up into the Wall box and receiving a nice pass from teammate Katie Coyle, Angie Shekian struck the back of the net for the fifth time this season, knocking home the game-deciding goal to put Middletown South up 3-2.
“I played the ball up to Katie (Coyle) and she played it back to me and I saw the corner of the goal open,” Shekian said. “I knew I needed to finish it with the game tied. When the ball crossed the back of the net, I just went wild and knew that goal was going to help us make it to the semifinals.”
Coyle now has a team-high 11 assists on the season.
The Eagles staved off any Wall rally attempt in the final 20 minutes of play.
Bennett stepped up big time in net for the Eagles by making two saves in the final two minutes of action.
The senior goalkeeper finished with a game-high eight saves for Middletown South.
Wall had one final chance with a free kick in the Middletown South zone around the 20-yard line with just over 30 seconds to play, but the shot on goal sailed well wide right of the net and the Eagles were able to keep dancing on to the semifinals of the tournament.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” Barry said. “The Shore Conference Tournament is very competitive, so to make it to the semifinals is a true accomplishment. You need a very special group of girls to make it this far. I’m so proud of our girls.”
Middletown South will play either No. 3 seed Red Bank Catholic or No. 6 seed Shore Regional in the semifinals on Saturday.
Follow Steven Bassin on Twitter @SBassin_Sports