Boys Soccer – Asbury Park Races to 5-0 Start With Win Over Ranney
TINTON FALLS - Asbury Park's five-win season in 2015 surprised the players on its team, and it was anything but a pleasant surprise.
Last season's failures motivated the large group of returning players to put in more time together and so far in 2016, the Blue Bishops have been a much different kind of surprise.
Asbury Park's ability was on full display Thursday in a 3-0 win over the Ranney School in a pivotal Shore Conference Class B Central game. Junior Davensky JoinVilmar and senior Fenelson Etienne continued their fast starts to the season and senior goalkeeper Joey Johnson turned in another sterling effort in net as the Bishops won their fifth game to open the season.
"You can't keep us down," Johnson said of his team. "You can't just go and put us down and not expect us to get back up and keep fighting. Last year wasn't good, but it was last year. We know who we are now."
Wednesday marked the first Asbury Park game in which JoinVilmar did not score a goal, but he made up for it by assisting all three of his team's scores. He set up Etienne's sixth goal of the season in the 53rd minute, took the initial shot that led to senior Ronald JeanVilmar's goal in the 57th, and slipped a through-ball to senior Eben Landau for the third goal in the 69th.
With those three assists, JoinVilmar now has seven goals and eight assists in Asbury Park's five wins to open the year.
Etienne has been the other primary source for offense with his six goals in five games. On Tuesday, Etienne scored the golden goal to lift Asbury Park to a 3-2 overtime win over Point Pleasant Beach and followed it up with another game-winner on Thursday.
Johnson was on his game on the other end of the field, saving eight shots to earn his third clean sheet of the season. It was a bounceback effort for Johnson and the defense, who allowed two goals Tuesday during Point Beach's comeback that sent the game into overtime.
Although Asbury Park's 5-0 has surprised even the Blue Bishops to a large extent, the team's speed and the prowess of JoinVilmar is no secret. Ranney used its top goal-scorer Brendan Wall - who has played forward for most of the Panthers' season and has 10 goals so far - to mark JoinVilmar rather than turn him loose up top.
"I think they new what to expect from us because they played up on grass instead of their turf," Asbury Park coach Jean Dortissant said of Ranney. "I think teams know that we have team speed and they have to worry about Davensky, but I think we're showing them that we are a lot more than that."
JoinVilmar has been an impact varsity player since his freshman season, but has raised his game this season. He is also a 6-foot-6 high-jumper for Asbury Park's track team, which shares a significant number of crossover athletes with the soccer team and it has showed.
"Davensky's game started improving during track season," said Dortissant, who is an assistant coach on the track team. "He's a 6-6 high-jumper who won a Central Jersey Group I championship and his game started elevating as he continued to build up his athleticism."
In addition to the increased team speed, the team has added to its chemistry with its work over the summer. In the cases of Johnson and JoinVilmar, both took advantage of the Monmouth University camp and have stood out to Dortissant with their talent.
"They were able to go to Monmouth and have a great three days there," Dortissant said. "It was a great experience for them to develop their game and become leaders. They are both already three-sport athletes and I think they have a mental edge that they probably didn't have before last year."
"I knew at the end of last season that I needed to get a lot better," said Johnson, who did not play soccer until his sophomore season. "I did a lot of work on free kicks and corners - learning how to be more aggressive and read them better. I've definitely learned that you can never let your guard down when you're the goalie and I think I'm a lot more aware this year."
Etienne and senior Widmaier Beaubrun have also brought leadership to a team that might not have been mentally ready to win last year but have done nothing but win this season. It took Asbury Park the minimum number of tries to reach their win total (five) all of last year and only five games to reach their total goal output (21) from a year ago as well.
The Blue Bishops are now in sole possession of first place in the Shore Conference Class B Central division, and while that is typically regarded as the weakest of the three Shore Conference divisions, there is reason to believe this Blue Bishops squad is not just a product of a soft schedule. St. Rose has already scored wins over Wall and Rumson-Fair Haven outside the division and Asbury Park blitzed the Purple Roses 5-1 at St. Rose's complex.
Asbury Park will have a chance to prove itself outside of B Central before the postseason when the Blue Bishops take on Matawan on Oct. 7. The Huskies are also off to a surprising 5-1 start in Class A Central through play Thursday. Although Dortissant and his team felt good about stepping on the field against anyone before the season, the confidence level is growing with each win.
"I think our expectations are higher now than they were a few weeks ago," Dortissant said. "One think I'm telling my guys is that they're not going to sneak up on anybody anymore. They are the ones who are going to have the bulls-eye and they need to be ready to come out and play against everybody, because every team is coming to beat us now."