Boys Soccer – Toms River South Stuns CBA in a Shootout to Reach SCT Semifinals
MIDDLETOWN - During practice over the last two days, Toms River South sophomore goalkeeper Jalen Folsom saved so many penalty kicks that it had to make some of the Indians players wonder how they would fare against Christian Brothers Academy All-American goalie Shane Keenan in a shootout if they couldn't score on their first-year starter.
Toms River South, however, knew what they were up against in Keenan while CBA - the top seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - found out the hard way.
Folsom saved a potential go-ahead penalty kick in the 76th minute and stopped two during the shootout to help the No. 8 Indians stun the No. 1 Colts on their home field and advance to the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals for the second time in three years.
The two teams played to a 1-1 draw over 100 minutes and Toms River South won the shootout, 4-3, in six rounds of kicks.
"This is very satisfying," Folsom said. "Right now, we feel like we're the best team in the Shore Conference. They were the number one seed, we came to their field and beat them and we feel like since we've shown we can beat them, we can beat anybody."
Folsom twice saved penalty kicks by CBA's most adept shooter, junior Dominic Bellomo. Eighteen seconds of game clock after saving a shot by CBA sophomore Luke Pascarella, Bellomo faced a penalty kick after a Toms River South handball inside the 18-yard box set up CBA with a golden opportunity to take the lead with a little more than four minutes left.
Bellomo directed his kick toward the left side netting, but Folsom anticipated the strike and pushed it wide of the post. During the shootout, Bellomo made his first kick to the same side and walked back to midfield favoring his right leg after going down late in overtime with a cramp.
"I just had a feeling he was going to go to his left," Folsom said. "I made the decision that I was going that way and once he got over the ball I made my move. The second time I faced him, I thought he'd go the other way and I guessed wrong and the last time, I definitely thought he'd change it up and I was right."
After the two teams finished five rounds of kicks tied at 3-3, Toms River South junior Clem Slavick made his second attempt of the shootout to give the Indians a 4-3 advantage and force the Colts' hand. This time, Bellomo tried to score to the right side of the goal, but Folsom pounced on the shot to end the shootout and set off the Toms River South celebration.
"The other day in practice, our guys were having a hard time scoring on him," Toms River South coach Ed Leibe said of Folsom, who saved two other penalty kicks during the season. "He reads it and reacts so quickly and that's why he saves PK's. To beat a team like that, you need a couple of things to go your way."
Each team missed the goal once during the shootout and Keenan made a diving save on Toms River South's first attempt - a firm strike by Slavick that appeared headed toward the left side netting.
"My first shot was better than my second one but (Keenan) made a great save," Slavick said. "You can definitely see why he's an All-American, not just in the shootout but in the game. Knowing we had Jalen made me feel a little better about missing that one and after they missed their first one, I think we all got knew we had this."
Toms River South tied the game in dramatic fashion as well, scoring the equalizer in the 72nd minute. The Indians earned a corner kick on the right side and senior Matt Babcock swung a ball into the middle of the 18-yard box. Sophomore Shane Kluxen elevated for a clean header that he directed into the right corner of the goal.
Kluxen went down to the ground during the celebration and eventually walked off the field. He showed symptoms of a concussion, according to Leibe and did not return.
CBA grabbed the lead in the 47th minute on a goal by junior Charlie Daly. Junior Jack Hempstead played the ball into the middle of the box from the right side, where junior Jack Gill headed it over to the left side of the six-yard box. Daly timed his run and one-timed a shot to the far post for the first goal of the game.
Keenan showed off his range in goal shortly before Daly's goal by saving a clean chance by Babcock on the right side of the 18-yard box. The senior goalkeeper and selection for the National High School All-American game also saved a near-post rip by junior Danny Caruso in the first overtime.
CBA unleashed three shots in the final five minutes of regulation, including the penalty kick, but Toms River South countered by outshooting the Colts, 4-0, during the first overtime period. Each team took two shots in second overtime. Toms River South outshot CBA for the game, 12-9, although the Colts owned a 7-6 edge in shots on goal.
"We've been outshooting every team we play, so we came here expecting to play our game," Slavick said. "We didn't change too much. We might have been a little more pumped to play them, but our game was the same."
The teams spent the first 16 minutes feeling one another out before CBA had the game's first opportunity. Junior Joe Lowzowski beat the last defender and hit the ball to the middle of the box to give sophomore Luke Pascarella a sitter in front of the goal, but Toms River South junior center back Ryan Laycock darted in and broke up the shot before Pascarella could get it off on the exposed goal.
Laycock and senior Garrett White led the defensive effort for Toms River South, which gave up just three shots to CBA in the first half and only three over the final 50 minutes.
"We wanted to put numbers behind the ball, make them play and when they made a mistake, we go," Leibe said. "They have a lot of skilled guys, so we didn't want to get too stretched out by trying to chase them."
Toms River South will look to reach the Shore Conference Tournament final for the first time since 1991 by beating No. 5 Ocean on its home field, which happens to be the neutral site of this year's SCT semifinals and finals for both boys and girls soccer. Toms River South has never won a Shore Conference Tournament title.
The two teams last met at Toms River North in the NJSIAA Group III semifinals in 2015, won by Toms River South. Ocean routed Toms River South on the way to winning the 2012 SCT while Toms River South paid the Spartans back two years later.
The last two times Toms River South reached the semifinals of the SCT, the Indians lost to CBA each time. The Colts beat Toms River South 3-1 on the way to winning the 2010 title and 2-1 en route to the 2015 championship.
Toms River South was also the only No. 1 seed in the last 15 years to lose in the quarterfinal round before knocking off CBA on Saturday. The Indians were on the other side of the upset back in 2014, when No. 25 seed St. John Vianney stunned the No. 1 seed to become the highest seed to ever reach the SCT semifinals.
"We've been on the other end of it, so it feels much better to be the team that pulls the upset," Leibe said. "St. John Vianney was a lot better than their seed that year. They had gone through some injuries and we were kind of in the same boat. We've had some guys banged up who are starting to get closer to 100 percent and we felt like our best soccer was still ahead of us."
Toms River South 1, CBA 1 - Toms River South advances on penalties, 4-3
|TR South (11-4-2)||0||1||0||0||1||4|
Goals (Assists): (TRS) Shane Kluxen (Matt Babcock) 72'; (CBA) Charlie Daly (Jack Gill) 47'
Shots: Toms River South, 12-9
Saves: (TRS) Jalen Folsom 6; (CBA) Shane Keenan 5
Penalty Kicks: (TRS) Zach Stankovics, Ruben Gallo, Isaiah Dominguez, Clem Slavick; (CBA) Dominic Bellomo, Connor Anderko, John Askin