Boys Soccer – NJSIAA Playoffs: Toms River South Survives First-Round Scare vs. Long Branch
TOMS RIVER - Toms River South senior goalkeeper Dom Pizzi was confident that he had already made the only save he needed to during his team's penalty kick shootout against Long Branch Monday in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III first round.
Then he watched his counterpart, Green Wave sophomore Carlos Irizarry, make a diving save on Indians leading scorer Dylan Parks to force one more round of kicks and thought maybe he'd like to do that one more time as well.
Pizzi saved one more kick, this time by Long Branch 19-goal scorer Venancio Fernandes, and sophomore Clem Slavick converted the ensuing try to give No. 2 seed Toms River South a shootout victory over upset-minded No. 15 Long Branch after a 1-1 draw over 100 minutes.
"The nerves started flowing after their guy made the save, but you just have to take it one step at a time," Pizzi said. "I had confidence in our shooters and I was confident that I could save enough shots to give us a chance."
With the shootout tied 4-4, the Indians goalkeeper dove low and to his left to save the shot by Fernandes, who converted Long Branch's first attempt of the shootout to the other side of the goal.
"I felt like after seeing (Fernandes) once, I didn't have a great read on him the first time, but I read his body language and I had a pretty good idea where he was going on the second one," Pizzi said.
On the next attempt, Slavick knocked the ball into a wide-open left side of the goal for the second time in the round.
Pizzi also saved a shot by Green Wave junior Gabe Viera that stayed in the middle of the frame.
Before Pizzi thwarted a comeback by Long Branch in the shootout, Toms River South had to rally in regulation to force overtime. After dominating the first 45 minutes of the game, the Indians became to show some cracks for Long Branch to expose. In the 61st minute, Fernandes finally slipped though and capitalized when he go to the endline, slid a cross from right to left and set up a charging Stiviny Da Silva for the first goal of the game.
It took the Indians only four minutes to respond with the equalizer. Senior Chris Kluxen heaved a throw-in to the near left post and junior Matt Babcock flicked a header over Irizarry and into the far right corner of the net in the 65th.
"As a team, we don't give up," Pizzi said. "That's just our mentality and we keep pushing. That's how we got that first goal right back."
The equalizer by Babcock helped Toms River South avoiding losing a game in which it outshot Long Branch 25-6, hit three posts in the first half and had a goal by Parks waved off because of an offsides call in the 43rd minute.
Despite Toms River South dominating the shots and essentially not allowing Long Branch inside the 18-yard box for the first 50 minutes, Long Branch had a chance at a goal that Pizzi and sophomore defender Ryan Laycock snuffed out. In the 51st, Fernandes ran on to a long ball played out of the back and faced a one-on-one with Pizzi. The Indians keeper blocked the shot, but it continued to slowly roll toward the frame. Laycock, however, had it covered and cleared the ball away as it crossed into the six-yard box with the goal exposed.
Toms River South will host No. 10 Steinert in its next game, which will be the NJSIAA sectional quarterfinals on Thursday. Toms River South coach Ed Leibe starred at Steinert in the early 1980's before going on to a standout college career at both Maryland and North Carolina State.
Toms River South 1, Long Branch 1
Toms River South advances in shootout, 5-4
|Long Branch (7-10-2)||0||1||0||0||1||4|
|TR South (13-3-2)||0||1||0||0||1||5|
Goals (Assists): (LB) Stiviny Da Silva (Venancio Fernandes) 61'; (TRS) Matt Babcock (Chris Kluxen) 65'
Shots: Toms River South, 25-6
Saves: (LB) Carlos Irizarry 8; (TRS) Dom Pizzi 3
Penalty Kicks: (LB) Venancio Fernandes, Stiviny Da Silva, Daniel Santos, Renan Acevedo; (TRS) Clem Slavick 2, Zach Stankovics, Dustin Urbaczek, Isaiah Dominguez