Eastern Proved to be South Jersey's Best Girls' Soccer Team

Eastern Proved to be South Jersey's Best Girls' Soccer Team
One of the greatest sports accomplishments in South Jersey this fall was the dominant season of Eastern’s girls’ soccer team. 
Under coach Jamie McGroarty, the Vikings are a perennial South Jersey and state power and this season was no exception. 
Playing a pandemic-shortened season, the Vikings went 15-0 and culminated the unbeaten season with a 3-0 win over Washington Township in the South West D (South Jersey Group 4) final. This year due to the pandemic, the NJSIAA decided that there would be no state championships, so the highest title a team could win was a sectional championship.  
For Eastern, it said a lot not only about the Vikings’ talent and coaching, but the ability to persevere under the difficult circumstances that COVID presented.   
When asked what was more difficult, winning the championship, or simply finishing the season, Eastern veteran coach Jamie McGroarty said, “I don’t know which was harder. There was so much more involved that what we are used to dealing with on the field and you were always looking over your shoulder.” 
Coaches in all sports never knew which of their players would be available day to day, game to game.  
Besides the unbeaten record, Eastern was truly dominant. Thirteen of the Vikings’ 15 wins were by multiple goals. Considering that the schedule was among the toughest in South Jersey, that is saying something.  
This year there were no all-conference teams, no all-South Jersey squads, but if so, Eastern senior Riley Tiernan would have received strong consideration for South Jersey Player of the Year.  
A Rutgers recruit, where her sister Madison starred, Tiernan had 15 goals and 10 assists. She had a goal or assist (or both) in 12 of Eastern’s 15 games, but statistics don’t begin to tell the story of Tiernan. 
She was such an explosive offensive player, that each game Tiernan was the focal point of the opposing defense. 
“Riley would draw two to three people and open up space for others,” McGroarty said.  
What really helped the Vikings was that there were three double-figure goal scorers, a high number for playing just 15 games. In addition to Tiernan, junior Cami Silvestro had 14 goals and six assists while sophomore Sydney Ritter contributed 12 goals and seven assists. 
What can’t be comforting to future Eastern opponents is that most of the team will return next season. Tiernan and defender Stella Kahn were among the leaders from the senior class and will be sorely missed, but this is a program that expects to compete each year not only for a South Jersey title but beyond. 
While some coaches don’t want the pressure of high expectations, McGroarty is always realistic in his expectations. Before the season he felt his team could be among the best in South Jersey and a state title contender (had there been state championships). 
Amid the uncertainty of COVID, the Vikings continued to battle and have been rewarded. And the rewards keep coming in. 

Recently the Vikings earned the No. 6 national ranking from the United Soccer Coaches Association. More honors are likely to come. For years, Eastern has set the standard in South Jersey girls’ soccer and this year, despite the obstacles of the pandemic, the Vikings had a season in which they proved to clearly be the best South Jersey had to offer. 

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Author: Marc Narducci

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