OCEAN TOWNSHIP -- A memorable ride for Ocean's seniors came to an end at the hands of Hopewell Valley on Friday evening.

The Spartans, seeded fourth in the NJSIAA Tournament South Group II bracket, fell to fifth-seeded Hopewell Valley, 16-6, in the sectional quarterfinals at Carelli Field.

Nolan Crognale had six goals and two assists and Tyler Krampf tallied four goals and four assists as the Bulldogs (10-9) opened an 8-2 halftime lead and never looked back to reach the sectional semifinals.

Ocean fell to Hopewell Valley, 16-6, in the South Group II quarterfinals. (Photo by Robert Badders).
Ocean fell to Hopewell Valley, 16-6, in the South Group II quarterfinals. (Photo by Robert Badders).

Hopewell Valley excelled in virtually every area of the game, and defensively they took away senior attackman Joey Appio with Chet Bancroft following him all over the field.

"They're a very good team and they do a lot of stuff right," Appio said. "They moved the ball well and they have a good offense and a good defense."

Appio is second all-time in New Jersey history with 221 career assists. He is the creator for Ocean's offense, and in taking him away it put a monkey wrench into the Spartans' plans.

"I had an idea they would do that," Appio said. "Lacey did it to us the game before this and we had a couple teams to it this year. They did it very well today. I'm not going to say we're our whole offense but me and Erik Rant are a big part of it. We're a team-oriented offense so when you take parts out it messes with us."

Rant had two goals and one assist and junior midfielder Sam Hanna scored twice for Ocean. Senior midfielder Connor Daly and freshman attackman Holden Lowe each had one goal and one assist, while Appio had one assist. Junior goalie David Walk made nine saves. For the second straight year, Ocean's season ended in the second round of the playoffs.

However, for the second straight year, Ocean turned in a 14-3 record, signifying the tremendous growth of a program that was at the bottom of the standings just four years ago. A senior class led by the high-scoring duo of Appio and Rant helped the Spartans go from a 3-13 team in 2013 to a team ranked in the top five in the Shore Conference.

"I couldn't have asked for a better (career)," Appio said. "A lot of teams wouldn't have given me the chance I had and these guys did, and I'm forever grateful for that."

"I'm forever an Ocean Spartan, through and through. I'm happy to play a part of all this. We went from a 3-13 team to 14-3 for two years straight. Some of my best memories are with these guys and I'm very proud of it."

Appio finished the season with 98 points on 30 goals and 68 assists. Rant scored 62 goals and 26 assists for 88 points. Senior midfielder Connor Daly finished with 56 points on 38 goals and 18 assists while senior Alex Bravo was one of the better face-off midfielders in the Shore Conference this season and won 61 percent of draws and senior defenseman Kyle Cascaes started all 17 games after seeing limited time as a junior.

"We let these seniors know that it all changed when they walked through the door," said Ocean head coach Warren Towns. "We went from 3-13 their freshman year to 7-10 and then 14-3 and 14-3. That speaks volumes about those guys. They bought into what we sold and they did it well."


Lacrosse editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 

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