Boys Soccer – Geerinck Strikes Again as TR South Moves Into Group 3 Final With Win Over Ocean
TOMS RIVER - Facing an Ocean boys soccer team that had allowed only two goals over its last 10 games with nine shutouts during that stretch, Toms River South senior Cameron Geerinck's 11-game streak with at least one goal was put to the test against one of the Indians' toughest opponents Tuesday in the Group III semifinals at Toms River North High School.
As Toms River South coach Ron Laycock put it, "something had to give" and when it has come to this postseason, the last thing the Indians and Geerinck have done is give in.
Geerinck extended his goal-scoring streak to 12 games with his 28th goal of the season in the 35th minute and the Toms River South defense and goalkeeper Dom Pizzi made it hold up in a 1-0 win over the Spartans that sends the Indians to the Group III final Sunday against Mendham at Kean University at 12:30 p.m. Toms River South will look to win its second ever group title and first since winning Group IV in 2009.
"Them giving up only two goals in their last 10 games and Cameron scoring in the last 11 games, something had to give and I'm glad it was Cameron that got the goal," Laycock said. "It's unbelievable how he just capitalizes on opportunities. It's been magical."
Prior to Tuesday, Ocean had not allowed a goal in its previous 10 games to any opponent other than Christian Brothers Academy in a 2-0 loss to the Colts in the Shore Conference Tournament championship game. For the first 34-plus minutes of Tuesday night's game, it appeared as though Toms River South might struggle to score on the Spartans defense and goalkeeper Yianni Kavarakas as well.
Then, freshman Clem Slavick won the ball and played the ball up as the referee allowed the Indians to play on through a foul due to an advantage. Junior Dylan Parks then played the ball through to Geerinck, who got position on the last Ocean defender and with Spartans defender Luis Araya on his hip, struck a low shot past Kavarakas and inside the near right post with 5:14 left in the first half.
"They kind of skipped out on their midfield - they play in the back and play the ball out over the top," Geerinck said. "We won it in the midfield, brought it forward with another counter attack like we normally do.
"The defender was giving me my right foot. He was angling me toward the outside, so I took one touch outside and just hit it. Luckily, the keeper couldn't get down quick enough to get it."
"It looked to me like the Ocean defenders kept dropping back and got caught watching the ball and kind of lost Cameron," Laycock said. "Parks slid a beautiful ball to Cameron and he did what he does."
During this 12-game stretch, Geerinck has scored 15 goals, including seven in five NJSIAA Tournament games and 11 in nine postseason games when also factoring in the Shore Conference Tournament. Toms River South is 11-1 during that span, with only a 2-1 loss to CBA spoiling the run.
"In the offseason, I worked almost every day," Geerinck said. "I knew I was going to have to become a better player and step up my senior year as a captain. I was going to have to bring something big and I just try to deliver every night I come out."
The goal by Geerinck was Toms River South's only challenge on the goal in the first half and one of only two quality opportunities against Kavarakas in the game. Parks got in behind the defense in the final three minutes looking for a dagger, but Kavarakas smothered the shot.
Ocean, meanwhile, had three close calls against Pizzi over the course of the game. The first came in the fourth minute, when Spartans senior Ryan Wells headed a corner kick by Ian Dwyer straight down off the ground and up off the crossbar. Wells later hit the crossbar on a 40-yard direct kick with 10 minutes left to play, which was the last quality chance Ocean would generate against Toms River South's defense.
Senior Marlhens Nasanes also broke free for a breakaway, running onto a through ball from freshman Santino Harding in the 56th minute. On a long touch by Nasanes, Pizzi came off his line and forced Nasanes to shoot the ball and the shot skipped wide of the far left post.
Harding also made some dangerous passes at the goal, including a 25-yard, left-footed strike that Pizzi plucked out of the air with a leaping grab. Geerinck also stepped in front of a shot by Harding in the final six minutes and knocked it off course with his left leg.
The Indians defense, led by center backs Mike Tapp and Chris Kluxten, kept Nasanes in check for most of the game and relegated Ocean senior Wadneson Alexis to the midfield without letting him create any chances for himself on goal.
"We knew they liked to play the ball long out of the back and Kluxten and Tapp are two big, strong center backs," Laycock said "They just kept getting their head on the ball and knocking it out every time, never letting them get the ball down to their feet in front of the goal and giving them an opportunity to make a play. I thought in the second half we got a little too defensive too soon, but with 10 or 11 guys behind the ball, we were tough to penetrate."
Toms River South will have a chance to cap arguably the greatest season in program history when the Indians take on Mendham on Sunday at Kean. They have already set the single-season record with 21 wins - which is also guaranteed to be the highest win total of any Shore Conference team this year - and unlike the 2009 Group IV championship team, these Indians won the outright Class A South championship and also reached the SCT semifinals.
"Our theme in 2009 was 'Believe' and I think these kids believe," said Laycock, who was an assistant under Ed Leibe in 2009 and took over as head coach in August after Leibe suffered a heart attack and switched to assistant coach while recovering. "These guys aren't intimidated by anybody and they feel they belong on the field with anybody.
"Half the battle in any sport is getting the kids to believe they can compete and these kids believe it."
Toms River South 1, Ocean 0
|Toms River South (21-3)||1||0||1|
Goals (Assists): (TRS) Cameron Geerinck (Dylan Parks) 35’
Shots: Ocean, 10-7
Saves: (TRS) Dom Pizzi 3; (O) Yianni Kavarakas 3