With opponents paying particular attention to leading scorer Jack Sarkos, the Mainland Regional boys soccer team needed somebody to step up, and Conner Juckett has done just that for the Mustangs.
Our Bunting Family Pharmacy Athlete of the Week has provided his team with an offensive spark when it needed it most — in the state playoffs. During a 7-0 win over Triton in the South Jersey Group 3 quarterfinals, Juckett scored a pair of goals that helped the Mustangs create some separation from Triton. Then, in a 5-2 win over Pinelands Regional, Juckett showed his ability to play a supporting role, as he dished out a pair of assists.
That victory put the Mustangs into the sectional championship game, against rival Ocean City, the tournament’s top seed. Mainland was playing against a strong wind in brutally cold conditions in the first half, and Juckett’s goal late in the first half put the Mustangs on the board and gave them a 1-0 lead going into halftime. Sarkos added a goal in the second half as Mainland won, 2-1, to capture its second straight South Jersey championship. That put them into the Group 3 semifinals against Toms River South for the second consecutive season.
“We have a lot of good players on this team and everybody has been stepping up. We’re definitely hitting our stride at the right time,” Juckett said after a late-season victory over Bishop Eustace. “We don’t even look at (an opponent’s) record, we just come in focused in every game. We want to win every game and look at every team the same, no matter whether they are 0-14 or 14-0, we’re looking to win every game. We’ve been playing together for about eight years. We had that travel team, MUSA (Mainland United Soccer Association), where we won a state championship. So, we have good chemistry from playing together for so long.
“We want to win everything this year. We want to go out as state champions, for sure. We definitely have the team that can go all the way this year, we just have to stay focused. We can’t get in our own heads. We just have to win.”
— Dave O’Sullivan, Staff Writer