By BRIAN CUNNIFF
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The Middle Township High School girls soccer team has put itself in a very favorable position within the Cape-Atlantic National Conference.
Ciara DiMauro’s second-half goal shortly after her team conceded turned out to be the winner as the Lady Panthers edged Cedar Creek, 2-1, to remain unbeaten in conference play.
“There’s a lot of parity in our division with Absegami, OLMA, ourselves and Cedar Creek,” Middle coach Mike Hickman said. “Anytime you can beat a very, very good team like that it helps you. We’ll still have to play them up there and we still have to play OLMA and Absegami again. Anytime you get a win you take it, especially in this division.”
On the winning goal, DiMauro forced a turnover in the final third and used her speed to get clear long enough to whip a shot inside the left post from the upper right side of the penalty area.
“(DiMauro) is obviously one of our go-to girls and she did a great job forcing that turnover and she went in and buried it,” Hickman said.
Corrine Morgan, who came into the contest leading the CAL with 17 goals through seven games, equalized earlier in the half when she blasted a free kick from 20 yards inside the right post. Morgan, however, was otherwise held in check by a stingy Middle defense, particularly freshman Riley Odom, who marked Morgan throughout.
Middle opened the scoring 10 minutes into the match when Olivia Sgrignioli headed Eva Dimitrov’s cross inside the right post.
Middle thought it had scored another just a few minutes later when Sofia Sgrignioli finished from 10 yards, but she was ruled offside on the play, even though video contradicted the linesman’s decision.
Following DiMauro’s goal in the second half, Middle had numerous chances to score an insurance goal but couldn’t convert. But its defense was good enough to prevent Cedar Creek from generating any real chances.
“Cedar Creek came in here 6-1, so when you’re playing somebody that good you want to compete and we did that,” Hickman said. “To be able to come out with a win, we’re very happy. When you beat teams like this, you have to be happy with the outcome.”
Middle improved to 5-2 overall, 5-0 in conference games. The two losses were to Cherry Hill West and Kingsway, a pair of much larger schools.
“We have two tough losses to two very, very good teams,” Hickman said. “We were in a 2-2 game with Cherry Hill West with 18 minutes left (in an eventual 4-2 loss) and we had a lead in the second half against Kingsway until they beat us (2-1). Right now, we’re happy with how the girls are playing.”