NEWARK - Heading into the season, the Jersey Express had plenty of goals in mind, most notably winning a division title.
"It was a team's work. Ever since we started, everybody's been committed to start strong," said midfielder Walter Hines. "It was our main goal to win the league this season."
Ten wins later, its goal has been achieved.
Hines' goal in the fifth minute was all the Jersey Express needed as it clinched the PDL Mid-Atlantic Division title with a 1-0 victory over Baltimore on Wednesday night at NJIT's Lubetkin Field.
Goalkeeper Matthew Turner earned the shutout and give the Express its first ever division championship.
"I think being so close last year to making the playoffs really drove a lot of people," said Turner, who made two saves. "This is my first year on the team, but I could see that everyone was really up for it. I think we won (four) games in a row and we realized it was a strong possibility to win it. We just had to keep it rolling and keep up the intensity in training and games."
The Express (10-1-2) have won three straight games and six of its last seven. During this streak, jumping out to an early lead has become a trademark of this club. Last night served as no exception.
In the game's fifth minute, Hines' shot from the left side was blocked by a Baltimore defender. Unfazed, he gathered the rebound, then lifted a shot just under the upper-far post and give the Jersey Express a 1-0 lead.
"It was a really tough play, I was in the corner and I didn't really know who was supporting me (on the play)," said Hines, who has five goals on the season. "I just took a chance, I had a shot and I tried for the goal.
"I just had to keep going. That was the big thing."
Unlike the previous two games when it scored five and eight goals, this victory would not be easy for the Express. But Turner made the lead hold up as he posted his third straight shutout. Turner made a leaping save on a Tommy Quaranta header in the 61st minute, knocking the shot over the net to preserve the lead.
Tyler Beck made six saves in defeat for Baltimore, which held a 5-2 advantage in corner kicks. The Jersey Express out-shot Baltimore, 8-4.
The Jersey Express close out the regular season with a home game on Saturday at 8 p.m. against Long Island before the starting the playoffs. While one preseason goal has already been achieved, the Express know, there is still more work to be done.
"The deed is not done yet," Turner said. "We're aiming for the top and hopefully we can get up there. I think it's definitely a possibility for us."