Boys Soccer – Toms River South Clinches A South Title by Beating Lacey
LANOKA HARBOR - Not many players on the current Toms River South roster were starters on the 2014 team that won a do-or-die game to clinch the Shore Conference Class A South division title last year, but they remembered the scene against Toms River North on the last day of the regular season.
Thursday at Hebrew Park, the Indians once again had a chance to secure a division title against the primary challenger to their crown and again, they proved - even with a host of first-year starters and contributors - that they know how to win a big game.
Junior Dylan Parks headed in the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute and the Indians held on to beat Lacey, 2-1, to capture their second straight outright Class A South championship.
"It was almost exactly like last year against (Toms River) North," senior Cameron Geerinck said. "The guys who played in that game remember it really well and we tried to prepare ourselves for the same kind of game. We told the new guys what it was going to be like and how we needed to give everything we had for 80 minutes and we just didn't stop fighting."
Parks is one of eight new starters for Toms River South and did not have a prominent role on the varsity team last year, but the players who saw their team beat out Toms River North for the division title in the last game of the A South schedule last year went into Thursday night looking to orchestrate a similar performance with a championship on the line.
"The guys who were here last year have done a great job all year of leading us and pushing us to become better players and a better team collectively," Parks said. "I think once we saw what he had and we started to play together, we realized that we could have an even better year than we had last year."
Eight minutes after Lacey tied the game at 1 in the 52nd minute, junior Chris Kluxten - another new starter who has played a key role on the defense this season - launched a long throw-in to the far left post from the right sideline. Parks navigated a crowded box to connect on a clean header that tucked into the far upper right corner of the goal and give Toms River South the lead for good.
"I was just trying to go to it strong," Parks said. "(Kluxten) has been throwing it deep like that all season and I haven't really been getting in on them too much so I was just trying to go in and get my head on it. Fortunately I was able to hit it clean and it went in."
Lacey tied the game in the 52nd on a left-footed volley by senior Robert Biele, his 22nd goal of the season. Senior center fullback George Gartner played the ball into the box and after it took a long bounce and deflected off a Toms River South defender, Biele warded off a defender to get to the ball and knock the left-footed shot into the far right side netting for the equalizer.
"We've been in situations like that before where we've been tied or had to come back and we just didn't let it get to us," Geerinck said. "We let the ball bounce when we probably shouldn't have and (Biele) made a great play to finish the goal. It just made us take a deep breath, regain our focus and go back to work."
"I think the composure is something that stands out with this group," coach Ron Laycock said. "Every time something bad has happened in a game, we never really lost our composure. When Lacey scored that goal, I'm kind of thinking they're at home and they're about to get the momentum, but that never really happened.
"Even compared to some of the better teams we've had in the past, this group with their focus on the task at hand and their willingness to do what it takes to be successful today is what's made them such a good group."
The Indians carried a 1-0 lead into the second half thanks to a goal by Geerinck in the 29th minute. Lacey goalkeeper Bobby Considine rejected an initial attempt by Geerinck off a counter-attack, but Geerinck got it right back, knocked in past Considine and walked it into the net to open the scoring.
Geerinck's goal capped a surge by the Indians to close the half, during which they turned a 6-2 Lacey advantage in shots to an 8-6 edge of their own. Biele took four shots during the Lacey's 6-2 spurt over the first 15 minutes, including a pair of clean strikes - one just wide of the upper left corner and another wide of the far left post from close range on the right angle.
Senior Mike Tapp helped lead the defensive effort and nearly gave Toms River South the lead in the first 10 minutes when he ripped a shot on the ground at an exposed net, but fired the shot just wide of the left post.
Toms River South's win Thursday night avenged its only Class A South loss of the season, which was a 3-1 loss to the Lions on Sept. 25. Starting defender Mike Conover and forward Francesco LoScrudato did not play in that game and Geerinck played only seven minutes after sustaining an injury in the game.
"We did have some guys that missed that game, but I think more than that, we just didn't realize how tough Lacey was going to be and they ended up outplaying us the first time," Geerinck said. "We had a much better idea of how to play them this time and it also helped that we were able to get our guys back in the lineup."
Following an opening day 3-0 loss at home to Holmdel, Toms River South won five straight games before losing to Lacey and has won seven straight since the loss to the Lions. The Indians are a perfect 6-0 on the road this season and will close their A South schedule Monday at Toms River North.
The division title is the third for Toms River South in the last six years after an extended period without one and this is the first title under head coach Ron Laycock. Laycock was the head coach of the Indians from 1994 through 2001 and took over head coaching duties after Ed Leibe suffered a heart attack in mid-August. Laycock had served as an assistant under Leibe during the entirety of his 13-year tenure.
"There's been some extra emotion this year, but this is a really solid group of kids," Laycock said. "Every now and, then, one of them might let their emotions get the better of him, but there is always a teammate there to pick him up and make sure everyone's focused on the same thing. They are kids so it's only natural that they are going to get caught up in the emotion of the game sometimes, but it's also a great group of kids who play hard for one another and play the game hard."
Toms River South 2, Lacey 1
|Toms River South (12-2, 12-1)||1||1||2|
|Lacey (12-4, 10-3)||0||1||1|
Goals (Assists): (TRS) Cameron Geerinck 29’, Dylan Parks (Chris Kluxten) 60’; (L) Robert Biele (George Gartner) 52’
Shots: Toms River South, 16-14
Saves: (TRS) Dom Pizzi 4; (L) Bobby Considine 3