Photo Galllery by Larry Murphy, Sports Pix NJ

WALL TWP. - In order to win the Shore Conference Class B North division championship, the Ocean High School boys soccer team had to travel to Wall Friday an beat an unbeaten team that had given up one goal all season and do it without its Division I center midfielder.

The Spartans might not have had standout center midfielder Wadneson Alexis, but they got something even more valuable on this particular day: a fortunate bounce.

Senior outside fullback Luis Araya coaxed a 40-yard shot to take an unusual bounce over Wall goalkeeper Nolan Cloney six minutes into the game and the Spartans made the goal stand up in a 1-0 win over the Crimson Knights. The win clinches Ocean's third division title in four years.

Araya's shot that bounced over Cloney and in was the first goal Wall has allowed that was actually credited to an opposing player. The only other goal the Crimson Knights have allowed is an own goal against Long Branch.

"It's a great feeling because every year, we've lost to them by a one-goal margin and it feels good to be able to beat them especially to win B North," Araya said. "And how many goals have they given up this year? Just scoring a goal against them is an accomplishment."

Without Alexis - whom head coach Tom Reilly said missed the game because of a "team issue" and will be back next week - Ocean worked the perimeter of the field to attack Wall, a strategy that made sense without its Monmouth-University-bound senior but was not employed based on his absence.

"We watched film of them and realized we had to attack them on the outside," Araya said. "It didn't have anything to do with Waldo being out. We played the same game we always do and just kept attacking, attacking, attacking."

"Tactically, we didn't change our gameplan," Reilly said. "We did the same thing we wanted to do against them. I just had to pull Waldo out and plug someone else in and obviously, there's no like-for-like. The kid is a phenomenal player for us. We just played one kid in that spot in the system and managed around it."

Even with an early one-goal lead, Ocean stayed on the offensive and nearly converted three other first-half chances. Cloney saved two shots from close range and Ocean senior Braylin Estrella nearly one-timed a free kick from Ryan Wells in off the bounce, but the shot carried wide of the left post.

After surviving that scare, Wall nearly equalized in the final minute of the first half off a corner kick. Japheth Segura sent a corner kick into the box and Roshen Eapen deflected in the direction of the goal. Ocean senior goalkeeper Yianni Kavarakas swatted the ball off the end-line and out of bounds to force another corner kick that Ocean cleared away.

Kavarakas appeared in his fourth game of the season Friday after missing the first month with a back injury.

"(Sophomore Tom Gleason) doesn't have the same amount of experience and he did a decent enough job for us, but there is just an overall confidence when Yianni's in there that I think showed today," Reilly said.

The second half was a defensive one for both teams, with Ocean outshooting Wall 3-2 in the final 40 minutes.

The fast start for Ocean was the opposite of the first meeting between the two Class B North rivals, which saw Wall jump out to a 1-0 lead with a goal in the sixth minute and sit on the lead for the next 74 minutes.

"We actually had some chances to get a couple more, which would have been nice," Reilly said. "We had two, in particular, that I thought were plays we've been putting away more times than not."

Heading into this week, Ocean was just 1-3 against teams with records above .500, but the Spartans have won back-to-back games against Colts Neck (8-5-1) and Wall (11-1-2) to seal the division title and head into next week's Shore Conference Tournament on a high note.

"We were very unfortunate the last time we played (Wall)," Reilly said. "We thought we should have at least scored one goal with all the pressure we put on them and we felt, even without Waldo, we were good enough to win this game if we performed. We got a big break to do it but I think we're worthy of the win."

 

Box Score

Ocean 1, Wall 0

1 2 F
Ocean (12-3, 11-1) 1 0 1
Wall (11-1-2, 9-1-2) 0 0 0

Goals (Assists): (O) Luis Araya 6’
Shots: Ocean, 11-6
Saves: (O) Yianni Kavarakas 2; (W) Nolan Cloney 8