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OCEAN TWP. – The Wall High School boys soccer team already won a tournament road game this during the Shore Conference Tournament and after picking up another key road win over a rival in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III playoffs on Friday, the Crimson Knights would like to finish the job this time.

Wall senior Dave D'Agostino carries the ball forward against Ocean on Friday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

The sixth-seeded Crimson Knights beat Ocean – the No. 3 seed in Central Jersey Group III and the winner of the Shore Conference Class B North division that both teams occupy – 2-1 in the sectional quarterfinals Friday to advance to the Central Jersey III semifinals Tuesday against No. 7 Somerville.

“It seems like every time we make a run in the state tournament, we’ve had to beat Ocean to do it,” 12-year Wall coach Garry Linstra said. “They’ve been a tough team over the years, especially these last two, and we knew they were going to be standing in our way. I think our guys knew what to expect, they came ready to play and they just played hard for 80 minutes.”

Senior outside fullback Dave D’Agostino opened the scoring in the 48th minute by sending a cross from the left side of the field across the box and caught a fortunate bounce when the ball hit an Ocean defender and rolled into the goal.

D’Agostino, a key member of the defense and a weapon when attacking up the flank, missed four games with a high-ankle sprain, one of which was Wall’s Shore Conference Tournament win over Christian Brothers Academy on Oct. 26.

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“It’s been great to see this team come together in the second half of the season,” said D’Agostino, whose team finished with six draws during the season, including a stretch of four in a row at one point. “There were some frustrating points during the year, especially with all the ties and my injury, but it feels like we’ve really put everything together the last few weeks.”

Wall took a 2-0 lead on a direct kick from just outside the top of the 18-yard box by senior Chris Barcas in the 54th minute. Senior forward Zach Hetzel set up the kick by drawing a foul on Ocean goalkeeper Chris Seager, who left his line and hit Hetzel with his knee while trying to beat him to the ball.

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Seager was booked with a yellow card and had to leave the field, leaving sophomore Yanni Kavarakas to defend the direct kick. Barcas struck the ball to the upper right of the goal, out of the reach of a leaping Kavarakas.

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“I like to go upper corner regardless of who’s in goal, but it’s pretty obvious when a new keeper comes in the game, especially when it means Seager is coming out,” Barcas said.

“It’s an impossible situation for the backup keeping,” Ocean coach Tom Reilly said. “He’s sitting on the bench the whole game and the one instance he’s called upon to come in, he ends up picking the ball out of the net. It’s not fair to ask a kid to come up with that play there.”

D’Agostino’s return helped mitigate the absence of defenders Zach Aylett and Rajan Patel, both of whom were away from the team on Friday. Despite missing two defenders, the Crimson Knights have been insistent that they are peaking at season’s end.

“Getting D’Agostino back has been huge for us these last two games and getting (junior transfer Joe) Tashjy in the midfield has really opened up our offense and made us more dangerous,” Barcas said. “We had some trouble scoring earlier in the season and it seemed like anytime we got a goal, we’d let one up, but lately, we’ve been able to score and keep the other team out of the net.”

Wall maintained control of the game through its second goal, after which the Crimson Knights held an 8-3 advantage in shots with a 5-1 edge in corner kicks. From that point on, however, Ocean outshot Wall 7-0 and also had a 6-0 advantage on corners as the Spartans worked for the equalizer.

The Spartans cut the deficit in half in the 67th minute when sophomore Wadneson Alexis ran onto a long pass over the defense by senior Justin Silverberg and poked it into the goal after Wall goalkeeper Jack Wishart came off of his line.

Over the final 13 minutes, Ocean put the pressure on Wishart and the defense, but could not get more than two shots on goal.

“I’m proud of the way we battled,” Reilly said. “Anytime you give up two the way we did – on an own goal and a direct kick from the top of the penalty box with our starting keeping on the sideline – the natural instinct is to throw your hands in the air and put your head down. It was definitely deflating, but our guys kept playing, they pushed forward and for a while, I really thought the equalizer was coming.”

The Spartans were coming off a first-round win over Nottingham in which they scored the game-winning goal with seven seconds in the first overtime period.

“That group over there has had a lot of experience in close games and has won a lot of these types of games over the last two years and certainly this year,” Linstra said. “It’s never over against them, but I think our guys were aware of that. They got a lot of corner kicks down the stretch and our motto in practice is that nobody is tougher than us in the box and we had to be tough to hold them off today.”

Ocean beat Wall twice last year and the two teams tied in both meetings this season. Wall’s SCT run ended with a loss to Rumson the round after the Knights beat CBA, and now Wall will look to extend this run beyond the semifinals.

“This was a big obstacle for us and I think the chance to play another game at home with a chance to go to the championship game is really going to energize us,” D’Agostino said. “We know we’re playing a good team and we’re going to be ready.”

 

Box Score

Wall 2, Ocean 1

 

1

2

F

Wall (13-2-6)

0

2

2

Ocean (12-3-5)

0

1

1

Goals (Assists): (W) Own goal 47’; C. Barcas (DK) 54’; (O) Alexis (Silverberg) 67’
Shots: Ocean, 10-8
Saves: (W) Wishart 3; (O) Seager 5

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