Boys Soccer – TR South’s Group III Ride Ends in Championship Loss to Mendham
UNION - Out of the first 45 minutes of its NJSIAA Group III final against Mendham, the Toms River South boys soccer team looked like it had an edge over the Minutemen for 35 of them.
Mendham, however, made the most of a 10-minute-long surge in the first half and put the finishing touches on its first ever state championship with a dominant second half that capped a 4-0 win over Toms River South at Kean University on Sunday.
"It just seemed like we could never get our flow offensively," Indians coach Ron Laycock said. "We put some pressure on in the first half, but we were always a pass or two away from getting a shot we wanted. Then we had some breakdowns in the back and they (Mendham) did a a good job of capitalizing."
Junior Jared Beneducci scored a goal in each half and seniors Julian Montilus and Christian Pedercini each added a goal and an assist to lead the Minutemen assault.
Beneducci scored the first goal of the game in the 12th minute off an assist from senior Julian Montilus. Montilus took the ball all the way to the endline on the right side and crossed it across the mouth of the goal. Beneducci made a run to the far post, got to the ball and struck an uncontested shot from the six-yard line past Toms River South goalkeeper Dom Pizzi.
Senior Christian Pedercini made it 2-0 when he hammered in a shot off a rebound in the 17th minute. After Toms River South applied pressure to Mendham's back line for the final 20 minutes of the first half and the first five of the second, the Minutemen countered and Montilus touched the ball past Pizzi and finished to an empty net in the 52nd.
Beneducci capped the scoring in the 66th by heading in a corning kick by Pedercini.
Four of Mendham's six first-half shots came during the 10-minute stretch between the 10th and 20th minutes and its shot advantage remained 6-2 into the 50th minute. The Minutemen then put the pressure on and outshot Toms River South 11-0 the rest of the way.
The loss snapped Toms River South senior Cameron Geerinck's 12-game streak with at least one goal. The senior striker set a new single-season school record with 28 goals for an Indians team that also set a school record with 21 wins.
"I don't think we saw him ever having this kind of season," Laycock said. "He started out as a midfielder for us last year and at the beginning of the year, we didn't even have him starting. He had a couple of good games out of the gate and just took off from there.
"Coming off last year, when he had nine or 10 goals, we were expecting him to be a go-to scorer. Even then, though, you're hoping to get 16 or 17 goals out of your top guy. To score almost 30 and to do what he's done this year is beyond what any of us could have ever expected."
After the 2015 began with some uncertainty in the form of a coaching shakeup, the Indians went on to have one of its best seasons in school history. Then-head coach Ed Leibe suffered a heart attack on Aug. 15 and ultimately decided to relinquish head coaching duties to longtime assistant Ron Laycock.
Although there was a change in title, Laycock and Leibe's 13-year history made the transition seemless for the players, especially with Leibe remaining on board as an assistant.
"To be honest, there really was no difference between this year and any other year," said Laycock, who was the head coach prior to Leibe's hire in 2002. "In all the years we've been coaching together, we've always felt like we're the two coaches. Even when Ed was the head, he never made me feel like I was an assistant. Eddie's an energetic guy who brings a lot of passion and that's always had an impact on the kids. This year really wasn't any different.