By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — McKenna Gregory will likely never have trouble remembering her first high school goal.
The sophomore midfielder pounced on a loose ball 10 yards from goal and blasted it into the upper left corner of the net midway through the first period of extra time to give the Middle Township High School girls soccer team a dramatic 1-0 victory over Wildwood Catholic Tuesday.
Gregory scored the golden goal after the ball popped to the left of a scrum in front of goal following a free kick sent forward by Middle center back Izzy Aftanis.
“We’ve been working hard with Izzy with trying to put the ball in the box and pick out targets,” Middle coach Mike Hickman said. “She saw something on the back side there and sent it in. It was just a situation where Izzy put the ball in the box and we try to put people in there and crowd the goalie. We were fortunate to have a scrum like that, the ball pops out and McKenna finishes it.”
Middle Township (2-1-1) carried much of the play during the contest but Wildwood Catholic also was dangerous a few times. The Crusaders (2-2) missed a chance to go ahead late in regulation, missing a golden opportunity in the box.
“Defensively our back four is pretty solid and they did a nice job today but Wildwood Catholic still exposed us a couple times,” Hickman said. “Give Wildwood Catholic their just due. They’re a senior-laden team and they did a really nice job. Any game between Middle and Wildwood Catholic is going to be a good game. It’s a local rivalry. Both teams did a great job.”
Middle carried play from the start of extra time before Gregory’s goal 4 minutes, 9 seconds in the period.
Tuesday’s contest marked the second time in a week that Middle went to extra time after a scoreless regulation, the Lady Panthers playing to a 0-0 draw with state power Ocean City.
“We were a lot more composed (when the game went to extra time) than we probably were against Ocean City,” Hickman. “I thought in overtime and the last 10 minutes or so that our kids did a nice job.”
The teams are scheduled to meet again in early November.
“My team played awesome and I’m so proud of them,” Wildwood Catholic coach Kara Saunders said. “We’ve never played 80 minutes with Middle and have been 0-0. They worked their butts off and never stopped. Does it stink to lose like that? It does. But our girls definitely should be holding their heads high after this.”