When the South Jersey Group 3 girls’ soccer tournament began, there weren’t many predictions that had Lower Cape May in the finals.
The Tigers finished third in their division, the Cape National Division I and were seeded fourth in Group 3.
Yet after Monday’s 2-1 upset of top-seeded Timber Creek, Lower Cape May won’t be able to sneak up on anybody, including Moorestown, its opponent in Thursday’s sectional final.
“Going into the tournament, the girls thrived on being in the underdog role,” said coach Brett Matthews.
Lower Cape May is now in unchartered territory, having advanced the furthest in school history. Before this, the Tigers had never gotten past the second round.
Yet with only four seniors, this team looks like it could have some staying power in future tournaments and won’t be easy to bounce out of this one.
Both goals against Timber Creek were scored by freshman Madie Gibson, who has 24 on the season.
“This has been really exciting for me,” said Gibson, whose game winner against Timber Creek came in the 78th minute.
Besides Gibson, Lower midfielder-forward Gabriella McKeown has 15 goals and tremendous field presence.
“I think she is one of the best players in the state,” Matthews said.
Senior keeper Gabrielle Adams controls play in the back and is a take-charger performer who provides outstanding veteran leadership.
“We have kept fighting all year and have the heart and shows we can go far.” Adams said.
Maybe the under-the-radar profile that Lower Cape May has stemmed from the fact that the Tigers had not played competition outside the Cape Atlantic League prior to the state tournament.
“A lot of our girls haven’t been seen but we have a talented group,” Matthews said.
Any team that can beat Timber Creek certainly has talent.
That said, the Tigers are now in the finals, after beating Pineland, 2-0 in the first round, then earning a penalty kick shootout win over Burlington Township in the second, followed by the upset win over Timber Creek.
The Tigers (13-3-4) will still be underdogs in the sectional final against a second-seeded Moorestown team that only allows goals grudgingly.
Yet Lower Cape May has embraced the underdog role. And by the looks of things, the Tigers better enjoy it, because it’s not going to last too much longer.