By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr., Photos by SportShotsWLB
Sunday, October 29, the 2023 Shore Conference Tournament was held at Holmdel High School. Featuring the same two teams that have been in the last three finals, Shore Regional and the Panthers of Point Boro. However, this year, the Panthers were the number one seed going into the finals with a nearly perfect 18-1 record. Their only loss was back on September 30, a 4-0 defeat by Shawnee.
Shore Regional, which also had a nearly unblemished record at 17-1, their only loss, a 3-1 loss to Point Boro, entered this years SCT as the second seed. The Blue Devils, which have 21 SCT titles and beat the Panthers in 2021 and 2022, were unable to add a 22nd title to their resume, as they lost 1-0 on Sunday.
Shore entered the tournament as the second seed out of the 24 teams. They had a bye in the opening round and faced 15th seed Monmouth Regional in their first contested match. Shore easily won that game 9-0. Briella Elias had three goals, Emma Haynes had 2 and five assists, while Marielle Montenegro, Gabby O’Brien, Kendall Bennett and Marin Stefanelli all had one goal in the victory. In the cage for Shore was Teagan Harmon who had one save. Could have been worse for Monmouth Regional, but their goalie Kaitlyn Convery made 21 saves in that game.
Next opponent for the Blue Devils was Central Regional, the seventh seed. They beat 10th seed Freehold Township 1-0 to advance to the Shore Regional match.
The Devils scored one goal in the first, second and third quarters taking a 3-0 victory. Montenegro had two goals and one assist in that win. Elias scored the other goal and Haynes had an assist. Harmon didn’t have any saves recorded in the shutout victory.
The Semifinals had Shore Regional taking on third seed Southern Regional. Their two wins in the tournament was a 7-0 win over 19th seed Manalapan and 7-3 win over sixth seed Toms River North. The first quarter against Shore was scoreless. The Blue Devils scored one goal in the second quarter and took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Third quarter was scoreless. Southern scored one goal in the fourth, but the Devils added two goals taking the victory 3-1. Haynes, Elias and Bennett each scored for Shore Regional. Getting one assist each were Elias and Montenegro. This was the most active Harmon was in the cage up to this point in the tournament, she had 12 saves.
Following the SCT, the Blue Devils entered the NJSIAA State Tournament as the top seed in the North Jersey, Group 1 bracket. They beat 16 seed Bulter 10-0, with Elias scoring half of the teams goals, and having one assist. Haynes had two goals, O’Brien, Stefanelli and Claudia Bufano each had a goal. Harmon had no saves recorded in this win.
Up next for the Blue Devils on Wednesday, November 1, is eight seed Glen Ridge. That game will be played at Shore Regional at 4:00 p.m.