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Middle knocked out of Coaches Cup by CHW in extra time

Middle Township’s Will Casterline (right) and a Cherry Hill West player converge on the ball in the midfield.


CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Last season, the Middle Township High School boys soccer team was on the winning side of a razor-thin margin in a first-round South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Invitational Tournament game.

This season, the Panthers experienced the losing side of one.

Cherry Hill West scored midway through the first period of extra time as the 12th seed in the 16-team tournament stunned No. 5 Middle Township, 1-0, at the Boyd Street Field Friday.

Middle was knocked out of the tournament in the first round one year after upsetting Shawnee on penalty kicks at the same stage.

The loss was Middle’s first of the season after 14 straight wins. Cherry Hill West (9-2-2) moves on to play No. 4 Shawnee in the next round.

“I thought we played a heck of a game against a very good program,” Middle coach Scott Kurkowski said. “I felt like we had more chances and we controlled the play for much of the game.”

Both teams had their moments, but Middle probably created more chances to score throughout the contest. Perhaps its best came early in extra time, when Vinny Povio narrowly missed the left post while driving through a dangerous header by teammate Landon Osmundsen sent toward the six-yard line.

Cherry Hill West was certainly the beneficiary of being more battle tested. The team plays in the rugged Olympic Conference, a league full of large schools with strong soccer traditions. Meanwhile, Middle is competing out of the Cape-Atlantic United Conference, a league that simply doesn’t provide Middle with many challenges on a regular basis.

“That was certainly a factor,” Kurkowski said, “and because of that, a lot of people wrote us off that we wouldn’t be able to hang with these guys. But I was very happy with how we played.”

Middle Township has more tournament play on the horizon. The Panthers have earned a bye as the No. 2 for the six-team Cape-Atlantic League playoff tournament and will host the winner of a game between Ocean City and St. Augustine Prep in the semifinal round late next week.

“This is about battling adversity now and how we’re going to respond,” Kurjowski said. “You can’t expect a Cinderella story and an unbeaten season. We have to come back and swing a little harder next time.”

Middle Township goalkeeper Devon Bock makes a sliding save early in the second half against Cherry Hill West.

Middle Township’s Steve Berrodin looks to turn in the midfield against Cherry Hill West.

Middle Township’s Landon Osmundsen tries to turn the corner against a Cherry Hill West back in the second half.