PT. PLEASANT BORO - Missing its striker and top goal-scoring option, the Manasquan boys soccer team employed an extra forward in its formation and while it did not necessarily result in more chances, the chances the Warriors got were plenty good enough.

Senior Beau Bradley opened the scoring in the ninth minute and junior Aaron Kocienski drilled a 20-yard strike for the game-winner in the 54th as Manasquan - the No. 6 seed in the Central Jersey Group II bracket - beat No. 3 Point Pleasant Boro Friday to advance to a sectional semifinal for the first time since 2010.

Manasquan lost senior striker Dan Del Guercio to a separated shoulder that he suffered in Tuesday's win over No. 11 Oakcrest, according to Warriors coach Tom McGill, which prompted McGill to switch from a 4-5-1 formation to a 4-4-2, compensating for Del Guercio's absence with two forwards in the formation.

Beau Bradley scored the first of two Manasquan goals Friday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

"We knew they were going to play unbelievably direct," McGill said. "So we tried to make them like a team that looks in the mirror that doesn't like what they see. We put two strikers up for the first time this year to see if we could get something with Bradley and he made an unbelievable move and then (Kocienski) hit a worldie."

The move paid off on the two counter attacks that led to the two Manasquan goals. Bradley - who normally starts in the center midfield - jumped an attempted pass after a Manasquan clearance in the ninth minute and carried the ball past the back line for a left-footed finish to the far side netting.

"I saw there was a lot space if I could get to the ball, so I just went after it hard," Bradley said. "I was able to slide between two defenders and once I go through, it was pretty much just me and the keeper."

With the score tied at 1 in the second half, the Warriors again countered, this time with Bradley and Kocienski pushing forward. Francisco Bautista played the ball forward on the counter and it deflected off a Point Boro defender and to the feet of Kocienski. With Bradley flanking him on the right, Kocienski dribbled left and unleashed a left-footed shot that tucked inside the upper left corner of the goal to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead in the 54th minute.

"The defender on me was paying attention to Francisco so I just called for the ball and he did a nice job getting it two me," Kocienski said. "From there, I just found some space and saw a little bit of daylight in the upper 90 and figured I'd have a shot."

"I just kept looking for him to pass it to Bradley," McGill said. "I'm just thinking, 'How's he getting it to Bradley, how's he getting it to Bradley?' Then he just cocks it and it was one of those lefty shots of his that he put right in the corner."

Point Boro tied the game in the 26th minute on a header by Sam Monaco off a corner kick by Mason Pitts. Bradley positioned himself on the far post and pinned the ball against the bar with the side of his torso, but the official ruled that the ball touched enough side netting to count as a goal.

"To be honest with you, I didn't think it was a goal," Point Boro coach Pete Casalino said. "I don't know how it's a goal if the kid has it pinned against the post. I thought it was a handball and it should have been a (penalty kick), so there's probably no difference in the end. But, no, I've never seen a goal like that."

Manasquan's change in formation opened up the midfield for Point Boro and the host controlled most of the possession and outshot Manasquan 10-4. The Panthers applied pressure during the final 25 minutes in an effort to pull even and nearly did in the 72nd. Monaco headed a corner kick by Nick DeCurtis from the right post back toward the left corner of the goal, but Warriors goalkeeper Brian Comer swatted the ball over the crossbar with just his right hand.

Manasquan will host No. 7 Cinnaminson in the South Jersey Group II semifinal on Tuesday. The last time the Warriors were in a sectional final five years ago was also the last time they were in the South Jersey Group II bracket. They also won a road game at Point Boro that year, defeating the Panthers in the first round and West Deptford in the quarterfinals to reach the semifinals as a No. 11 seed.

Manasquan's win on Friday was one of four quarterfinal games in the South Jersey Group II bracket won by the road team, leaving a wide-open race to the sectional championship. In addition to road wins by Manasquan and Cinnaminson, No. 8 seed Delran upset No. 1 Haddonfield and No. 5 Sterling won at No. 4 Pleasantville to earn a home game against the Bears on Tuesday. If Manasquan can win on its home field on Tuesday, it could host the sectional final if Delran - one of the most accomplished Group II programs in the state - can pull off another road win.

"We haven't had a run in years. Since I've been in high school, we haven't even won a state game," Bradley said. "We got that first one and got some momentum going and now we're really excited for the opportunity to keep playing next week."

 

Box Score

Manasquan 2, Point Boro 1

1 2 F
Manasquan (11-7-2) 1 1 2
Point Boro (15-3-1) 1 0 1

Goals (Assists): (M) Beau Bradley 9’, Aaron Kocienski 54’; (PB) Sam Monaco (Mason Pitts) 26’
Shots: Point Boro, 10-4
Saves: (M) Brian Comer 3; (PB) Tyler Haines 2