By Brian Deakyne
Editor’s Note: Red Bank Catholic fell to Freehold Boro in the semifinal. The game went to PK’s and RBC lost 0-0, 3-1 PK.
RED BANK — Red Bank Catholic senior forward MacKenzie Cowley is used to being the best.
For the last two years, she’s been the best player for the Lady Caseys and one of the best overall goal-scorers in the Shore Conference, arguably.
So in the second overtime against 13-seeded Colts Neck in the Shore Conference Tournament quarter-final, and even after playing a mediocre 90 minutes, Cowley knew she would have to play a part if fifth-seeded Red Bank Catholic was going to advance any further.
She did just that; belting home the game-winning goal in the 93rd minute when she put home her own rebound off the crossbar to give Red Bank Catholic the 3-2 win.
“It was so unbelievable. Honestly, my thought was we’re going to PK’s. It’s the second overtime, we just wanted to keep the ball in our end and try to hold it there,” Cowley said.
The goal capped off a wild second half of the game. After a scoreless, and rather uneventful opening 40 minutes, the Caseys and Cougars scored five times over the final 36 minutes. Junior midfielder Elizabeth Thoresen scored twice for the Caseys — including a game-tying penalty kick in the 75th minute — to help the Caseys battle back against Colts Neck.
“I just had this confidence, I knew we weren’t scoring but we were close,” Red Bank Catholic head coach Ken Santos said. “We had to keep plugging away. We hit the crossbar three or four times, but the girls kept their heads up, so it’s a testament to them.”
Colts Neck, eager to pull off another upset, battled the Caseys all the way through the second half. After Thoresen’s first goal in the 57th minute, the Lady Cougars got two goals in a seven-minute span to take a 2-1 lead. Amando Visco tied the game in the 59th minute and Oti Laki finished a free kick in the 66th minute, putting the Caseys at a disadvantage for the first time since they lost to Ocean on Sept. 22.
Red Bank Catholic continually applied pressure, though, and was rewarded when Thoresen put home a penalty kick late in the second half. The Caseys were awarded the penalty kick after a handball inside the 18-yard-box, and Thoresen kissed it off the right post and in.
“It’s win and advance. We try to play nice soccer and pass it out of the back, but sometimes you have to be safe,” Santos said. “At halftime, we said let’s play it nice if it’s on; if it’s not on, let’s put it in the channel and let our two fast forwards get on the end of it.”
The Caseys opening goal came after a flurry of chances. In the 55th minute, Thoresen put a shot in tight over the net, and a minute later, junior midfielder Grace Fallon was stopped on a header off a corner kick.
And even on a night when Cowley, who didn’t play in RBC’s round of 16 win over Toms River East last Friday, wasn’t her best, she still played the hero role.
“That’s what MacKenzie’s learned over the years, that she may not have a great game, but we need her there to score goals,” Santos said. “She’s a striker, she’s a goal-scorer. She goes off the cross-bar, the ball bounces down, she jumps on it and scores. She kept her head up, she kept plugging away and she ends up getting the game-winner.”
The Caseys advanced past Toms River East, 2-1, in the round of 16, behind two goals from junior forward Grace Correll, including the game-winning goal in the 71st minute.