METUCHEN — After getting an early equalizer and earning the majority of the scoring chances in the game’s second half, the Metuchen High School girls soccer team came up one penalty kick short of a sectional title on Thursday.
Jesse Egan’s penalty kick goal in the sixth round of the shootout was the difference as third-seeded Shore Regional upended Metuchen 2-1 (4-3 in shootout) to capture the NJSIAA Central Group I title.
The teams’ played scoreless through two 10-minute overtime periods and the allotted five-player shootout round but couldn’t be separated. In the sudden death round of the shootout, Egan calmly stepped up and beat Metuchen goalkeeper Emily Buchanan to the right side of the net and Shore goalkeeper Katie Colaguori stoned Emily Corson to give the Blue Devils their second straight Central Group I crown.
“I just stayed confident and I knew my skills and I was just calm and I knocked it through,” Egan said.
Colaguori made three consecutive saves in the shootout after Metuchen had scored on their first three shots. Devon Philbin had a chance to win it for the top-seeded Bulldogs but her shot was turned aside by Colaguori.
The game certainly didn’t look like it was going to reach a shootout, as Metuchen ramped up the pressure in the first of two overtime periods. Corson had the best of the chances when she made a full-field run after Emily Costello headed out a corner kick, but Colaguori came out of the net to thwart the chance. In the second of the two overtimes, Gabby Cyran nearly ended it, but her shot clanged off the crossbar and Shore was able to clear the box.
“You cannot take away the girls’ effort today or all season on just one shot or one save,” Metuchen head coach Val Gazda said. “We just came up short; we had opportunities, but it wasn’t to be. The senior class has nothing to be ashamed of. This is the first group in my 24 years that has won 20 games in a season. I think this is one of the best teams of the one’s I’ve coached.”
Corson got Metuchen on the board and knotted the score in the 16th minute after playing give-and-go with Taylor Hueston down the right wing. Hueston played a perfect through-ball onto Corson’s feet and the senior didn’t miss it, knocking in her 24th goal of the season. Shore had scored first 12 minutes earlier when Samantha McDonough beat Buchanan to the far post.
From there on, the two teams played to a stalemate, neither earning a quality look at the net until overtime began. But the field began to tilt in Metuchen’s favor once overtime began, even though the Bulldogs (20-2-1) couldn’t cash in.
In the shootout’s first three rounds, Megan Haugh, Alexa Craft-Zaletel and Costello all beat Colaguori, while Buchanan kept Shannon Bonner’s shot out of the net. Colaguori was Shore’s fifth shooter, but she missed the net, forcing the game into sudden death.
“Before the game I told the girls that win or lose, they should walk off the field with their heads held high and that’s the hardest thing. We put our best foot forward and that’s all you can I ask for,” Gazda said.