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OCEAN TOWNSHIP — A decade from now, 2015 will be looked back upon as the year Ocean’s lacrosse program started penning its record book. The Spartans continued their breakout season on Tuesday by venturing further into uncharted territory.

Junior midfielder Erik Rant scored a game-high four goals, junior attackman Joey Appio had a goal and five assists and sophomore midfielder Sam Hanna had a hat trick and one assist to lead Spartans, ranked No. 8 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and seeded eighth in the Shore Conference Tournament, to a 12-5 win over No. 10 and ninth-seeded Toms River North in the first round of the SCT.

The Spartans now advance to the SCT quarterfinals for the first time in program history, and will face top-seeded Southern Regional on Thursday. This season is also the first time Ocean has posted a winning season since the program started in 2007. After last season’s 7-10 campaign, the Spartans have broke out with a now 10-1 record after Tuesday’s victory.

“We’ve had a breakout season and we’re rolling right now,” Appio said. “We’re feeling really good.”

“We brought back everyone but two people, so we knew we were going to be good,” said Spartans head coach Warren Towns. “We just didn’t know how good. We’ve really developed during the season.”

Senior Zack Karasic added two goals and one assist and senior Christian Goslin and junior Connor Daly each tallied once. Sophomore David Walk made eight saves while Rant and senior long-stick midfielder Steven Graziano picked up seven ground balls. Ocean won the team battle for ground balls, 34-26.

Toms River North was led by Mike Colello, who scored two goals and added one assist, and senior midfielder Tyler Foss, who also scored twice. Ryan Clancy also tallied for the Mariners and Austin Bennett made eight saves.

Ocean led for the entirety of the game, pulling away in the second and third quarters. Hanna got the scoring started at 9:18 of the first quarter off a pass from Appio before Colello tied the score when Josh Francis set him up for a goal at 5:42. Goslin put the Spartans ahead for good when Karasic fed him for a goal with 1:20 left in the opening quarter.

Appio assisted on the next two goals for Ocean, threading a pass to Hanna at 11:02 of the second quarter and one to Karasic at 9:33. Foss then tallied unassisted at 7:43 to make it 4-2, and Colello netted his second of the game when Joe Vitiello fed him at 7:27.

Ocean junior attackman Joey Appio scored a goal and had five assists in the Spartans 12-5 win over Toms River North in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament. (Photo by Dave Thorne.)

A slashing call on Toms River North at 3:53 gave Ocean its third extra-man opportunity of the game, and the Spartans cashed in when Rant took a pass from Appio and blasted one past Bennett to give Ocean a two-goal lead again. Appio’s unassisted goal at 2:47 put the Spartans up 6-3 at halftime.

The lead ballooned to 9-3 in the third quarter as Rant score unassisted at 11:31 and completed the hat trick at 6:23 when Appio set him up for another goal while playing with an extra man. Karasic’s unassisted strike at 3:14 gave Ocean a six-goal advantage. Foss scored unassisted with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.

“We got a little messy and just had to tighten it up, and we did that at the half,” Rant said.

In the fourth quarter, Hanna completed his hat trick with an unassisted goal at 9:11, and Rant netted his fourth at 5:21. Daly got in on the scoring action when Hanna fed him for a goal at 4:33. Clancy closed the scoring for Toms River North by taking a pass from Colello and scoring with 3:47 left.

“We knew we had to come in with a 110 percent attitude like every game,” Appio said. “The eight-nine matchups are usually games to watch, so we wanted to play hard for 48 minutes and get the job done.”

Now Ocean gets to take its shot at top-ranked and undefeated Southern. The Rams improved to 14-0 with a 22-5 wipeout of Brick in the first round. The Spartans understand the challenge in front of them, but they won’t be backing down.

“First and foremost we have to do what we do best and refine that,” Towns said. “We have a couple of films on them, and we’ll see what we can do to best manage the game against them. We feel we can compete, and we’ll see how well we can.”

“They are No. 1 and there’s no hiding that,” Appio said. “We have to believe in ourselves first. We have that nothing-to-lose mentality and they have all the pressure on them. We’re excited for the challenge.”

 

BOX SCORE

Shore Conference Tournament

First Round

8-Ocean 12, 9-Toms River North 5

Ocean (10-1)   2 4 3 3 — 12

TR North (8-3) 1 2 1 1 —  5

GOALS - TRN: Mike Colello 2, Tyler Foss 2, Ryan Clancy: O: Erik Rant 4, Sam Hanna 3, Zack Karasic 2, Joey Appio, Christian Goslin, Connor Daly.

ASSISTS - TRN: Mike Colello, Josh Francis, Joe Vitiello; O: Joey Appio 5, Sam Hanna, Zack Karasic.

SAVES - TRN: Austin Bennett 8; O: David Walk 8.

SHOTS - Ocean 24-21

 

Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com