The Egg Harbor Township High School girls soccer team wants to prove itself this fall.
With a new coach and many new players, the Eagles want to show their Cape-Atlantic League American Conference rivals that they are still a legitimate threat.
EHT, which is 3-3-1 after a 2-2 tie with Ocean City on Monday, proved its capability Friday by doing something no other team had done. The Eagles handed Hammonton, which is ranked No. 9 in The Press Elite 11, its first loss, 2-1.
The win did wonders for the Eagles' morale.
"We went out there with more motivation than we've had in past games," said junior defender Kali Cappuccio, who is 16. "We gave it our all and we proved to be a better team in that game."
Uncertainty surrounded EHT after a 3-0 loss to Vineland started the season.
The Eagles rely on several newcomers. But first-year head coach Christian Wiech, who was an assistant to previous coach Tory Marcus for three years, says the team is starting to click.
"The chemistry is starting to really come around," Wiech said. "The older girls are taking the younger girls under their wing and are teaching them the tricks of the trade."
The young Eagles look to Cappuccio and captains Laina Matus (senior forward), Juliann Brand (senior midfielder) and Ashley Collins (junior defender) for guidance. With 31 career goals, Matus is among the top five scorers in program history.
Matus has three goals this season, in part because the underclassmen have done a good job of relieving the pressure on EHT's veteran players in recent games. Freshmen Jordyn Martini, Alexis Magruder and Camille Howarth have made an impact.
Martini scored the game-winner against Hammonton in a win that has altered the Eagles' attitudes about themselves. Even a 6-0 loss to top-ranked Eastern (10-0) the next day couldn't shake their spirits.
"We had the heart to beat (Hammonton)," Matus, 17, said. "If we can beat them, we can beat anybody."
Perhaps the easiest transition of the season was Wiech's move to head coach. This is the first head-coaching job for Wiech, who teaches AP Statistics at the high school.
"He knows what he's talking about," Matus said. "He's played the game. We look up to him."
In recent years, Egg Harbor Township has steadily gotten better. Last year, the Eagles received their first-ever invitation to the prestigious South Jersey Coaches Tournament.
With a month or so left in the regular season, EHT aims to keep improving. The Eagles have a lot left to prove to their opponents.
Most importantly, they want to emerge as one of the CAL's perennially strong teams.
"I just hope to see our confidence escalate and that we show other schools what we really have," Cappuccio said.
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