OCEAN TWP. - The Wall boys soccer team entered Monday with just one goal allowed all season and that goal could be considered a fluke. If the pristine start to the season on defense could at all be considered a fluke, it would have shown against Monday's opponent - an Ocean side ranked No. 4 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and second in the Shore Conference in goals per game.

Instead of cracking under Ocean's pressure, the No. 7 Crimson Knights rose to occasion and conquered it in a 1-0 win that gives Wall sole possession of first place in the current Shore Conference Class B North standings.

Wall's stellar, organized effort on defense that shut out one of the Shore's most dangerous offensive teams was born out of an early lead. Senior Reilly Barcas redirected a free kick by senior Zach Ferry with his head, flicking it past Ocean sophomore goalkeeper Thomas Gleason for a 1-0 lead just 5:35 into the match.

"I don't want to sound like I'm bragging, but I'm pretty good in the air," Barcas said. "Ferry always looks for me in the box. The balls he sends into the box are always on point and sometimes we'll just look at each other and figure whether to go near post or far post. He put the ball in a great spot and I was able to get a head on it, just enough to redirect it."

After Barcas' goal in the sixth minute, Wall created one more first-half chance - a one-on-one opportunity for junior Japheth Segura that Gleason pushed wide of the right post - and did not take a shot for the rest of the game.

"We were hoping to get an early goal so we could go defensive on them," Barcas said. "Fortunately, we were able to get on the board early. They have some dangerous players, so we were fine letting their backs play with the ball out away from the goal."

Wall's goal was the first shot of the game by either team and Ocean immediately responded with 10 minutes of heavy pressure against Wall goalkeeper Nolan Cloney and the defense. Cloney saved three shots during the stretch, watched another go wide and caught a break when Spartans senior Marlhens Nasanes swung and missed on a one-time attempt after fellow senior Wadneson Alexis played him through to the top of the six-yard box.

"You could see just from those first 10 minutes or so how dangerous they are," Wall coach Garry Linstra said. "Surviving that stretch let us settle into things a little more and even though they held the ball in our end for most of the game, I thought our guys did a nice job of keeping their shape and taking some of the options away."

Cloney collided knees with another player in a scramble for a loose ball in the box and had to leave the game momentarily, prompting Linstra to briefly replace his starter with starting junior defensive center midfielder Dan Frisch-Harmon.

Frisch-Harmon dealt with an injury of his own, according to Linstra, who said Frisch-Harmon hurt his hip while going in for a tackle early in the game. After taking over in goal for less than a minute, Frisch-Harmon spent the rest of the game focusing his efforts on defending Alexis. The Monmouth University recruit began the game up top, but settled into an attacking midfield role shortly after Wall scored.

"He's very quick with the ball," Frisch-Harmon said of Alexis. "He can beat you off the dribble and he can pull up and shot from pretty much anywhere, so you've got to try to contain him, stay in front of him and hope you can muscle him up a little bit, but even that's hard to do."

"I told him, 'If you can't push like you normally do, just sit there and clog the middle and do those little things that need to be done,'" Linstra said. "He's just a versatile kid who can do everything. We saw it three years ago and he's been exceeding expectations since. The kid's a stud; he just needs to keep working hard and hopefully he can stay healthy."

With numbers behind the ball for most of the game, the Wall defense forced Alexis and Nasanes to take extra touches to find space, often pushing them toward the corners in order to find space to get a shot off. Both Nasanes and Alexis got off clean shots on the far post - Nasanes on a header off a service to the back post midway through the second half and Alexis on a one-time volley out of the air shortly thereafter.

Ocean's closest call to tying the game came in the 53rd minute in the form of a shot by freshman midfielder James Schultz. The freshman hit a dipping shot from the right side of the 18-yard box that Cloney tipped with a leaping effort, pushing the ball up high enough to send it off the crossbar.

"We had four clear-cut chances in the first half and didn't score," Ocean coach Tom Reilly said. "We were in alone with the keeper four times and we got none, so we had 40 minutes to fix that. Possession-wise and havoc-wise, we kind of did that, but we weren't active enough in the box.

"We held the ball for 35 minutes in the second half, but we didn't really create the golden opportunities and that was disappointing. You don't want to fall behind against this team, because they can pack it in and kill the game."

In all, Ocean outshot Wall 16-2 and spent almost the entire second half in Wall's end, but could not turn the advantage in shots and possession into a goal against Wall's defense.

"I actually was hoping to play with them a little more today but once we got the goal and they had that early flurry of chances, we kind of settled into our shell," Linstra said. "Then, once Harmon came down with his injury and we saw he was going to be limited, it definitely hurt us in the midfield. I think if we had to, we probably could have done a little better in terms of possession, but the game changed once we scored early."

Through eight games, Wall has allowed just one goal, which was an own goal in a 1-1 draw against Long Branch.

"I you would have told me with two starters back from last year and Reilly moving into the lineup, we would be 7-0-1 with one goal allowed through eight games, I would have thought you were crazy," Linstra said. "It's a testament to hard these guys have worked as a group and how well they have been able to jell early in the season."

 

Box Score

Wall 1, Ocean 0

1

2

F

Wall (7-0-1, 5-0-1)

1

0

1

Ocean (6-2, 5-1)

0

0

0

Goals (Assists): Reilly Barcas (Zach Ferry) 6’
Shots: Ocean, 16-2
Saves: (W) Nolan Cloney 8; (O) Thomas Gleason 1