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Middle’s comeback effort falls short in CAL semifinal

Middle Township's Abby Ridgway defends.

  • Middle Township's Hannah Price works the ball from the back.
  • Middle Township's Olivia Sgrignioli holds off a Mainland player in the midfield.
  • Middle Township's CC DiMauro brings a ball out of the air.
  • Middle Township's Skyla Bowyer plays the ball forward to teammate Hannah Price.
  • Middle Township's Sophia Sgrignioli races a Mainland player for the ball.
  • Middle Township's Abby Ridgway defends.
  • Middle Township goalkeeper Brianna Robinson makes a save as a Mainland player lurks.
  • Middle Township's Eva Dimitrov blasts the ball forward.
  • Middle Township's Mckenna Gregory battles with a Mainland player.


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — A tenacious comeback by the Middle Township High School girls soccer team fell short Saturday afternoon.

Middle, after falling behind by a pair of goals, scored once and pressured for another but could never get an equalizer in a 2-1 defeat to Mainland in the semifinal round of the Cape-Atlantic League playoff tournament.

Middle, the top seed in the four-team tournament, got a wonderful goal from CC DiMauro with less than 20 minutes remaining in the second half and played most of the rest of the contest on the front foot, but the fourth-seeded Mustangs held firm and came away with the victory.

Mainland moves on to play No. 3 Ocean City in the final on Monday. The Raiders beat No. 2 Millville in the other semifinal.

Mainland scored the opener a bit past the midway point of the first half off a corner kick. The ball bounced off a few players bodies before falling to the feet of Emily Paytas, who buried her shot into the right corner.

“Mainland is a very good team and historically they’ve been a very good team,” Middle coach Mike Hickman said. “We’ve seen how they played lately and felt we had to protect the middle of the field so in the first half we came out with a 4-5-1 (formation) to try to force them wide and for all intents and purposes it worked. They got their goal off a corner kick. Other than that we held them.”

Mainland then scored a second early in the second when Jane Meade redirected a free kick from Camryn Dirkes inside the right post.

Middle (12-1), with a more offensive formation for the second half, began to slowly tilt the balance of play after the second Mainland goal, however. The Lady Panthers struck with 18 minutes remaining when Olivia Sgrignioli played a superb ball over the top of the Mainland back line, allowing DiMauro to run into space, collect the ball and blast a shot into goal.

“It was a beautiful goal,” Hickman said. “Liv played a great ball over the top and CC brought it down and buried it.”

While disappointed with the loss, Hickman was not disappointed with his team’s effort.

“The second half, we decided to up it up more and see what happens and we did well,” Hickman said. “We had our opportunities, but you have to capitalize on them and unfortunately we didn’t.

“Just to be one of the teams in this tournament is great for us. You want to play these types of games. We still have a lot of tough games coming up. We want to get better as a team and get ready for the state playoffs.”