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Mainland routs Triton, advances to SJ semifinals

LINWOOD - The Mainland Regional High School boys soccer team is focused on a return trip to the South Jersey Group III championship game, and nothing seems to be obstructing that view right now.

Jack Sarkos scored three goals and Conner Juckett scored two as the Mustangs beat Triton Regional 7-0 Friday in a sectional quarterfinal game at Mainland.

Sam Watt and Danny Alejo each added a goal, and goalkeeper Matt Stellitano posted yet another shutout, his 14th of the season, as second-seeded Mainland advanced to the semifinal round. The Mustangs (17-2-2) will host third-seeded Pinelands Regional Tuesday. Pinelands advanced with a 5-4 win over Winslow in another quarterfinal Friday.

Last year, Mainland won the  program's first-ever South Jersey championship but lost in a state semifinal. This year, the Mustangs have vowed to take that next step. They've opened the tournament with two straight shutouts, including a 4-0 win over Deptford in the first round.

"We know our goal," said Sarkos, a junior. "We know we want to get back to states. I want to do it for my seniors, because I've been with them since I was eight years old, playing club soccer. There's 12 of them, and I leave it out on the field every time I play."

Sarkos and Watt scored in the first half Friday for Mainland. Juckett scored two quick ones early in the second half to turn it into a rout. 

"To me, the most important thing at home is getting off to a good start, and use that momentum," said coach Chris Meade. "I told them, it's 2 p.m. and look at that crowd (of students and fans) on the hill. You put yourselves in position this year by working hard to get a home game. Take advantage of the home field." 

Mainland stayed on track for a much anticipated meeting with rival and top seed Ocean City in the South Jersey championship late next week. Ocean City advanced to the semifinals with a 5-0 win over Lacey and will host No. 4 Hammonton on Tuesday.  

"What we're trying to do here is compete with the other teams and keep the energy up and have as much fun as possible and make it as far as we possibly can," said senior Nick Nutile. "Without saying too much, we just want to get the job done and keep it rolling."

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