FARMINGDALE -- As sophomores a season ago, Nick Turturro and Tye Maser were simply asked to play their roles to the best of their abilities for a resurgent Howell boys soccer team and both did so better than most sophomores could -- Maser as an outside back and Turturro as a striker.

Now juniors and short several of the seniors that shaped Howell into the No. 2 team in the Shore Conference by the end of the 2022 season, Turturro and Maser are two prominent members of a junior class that has Howell back in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals and on the cusp of another trip to the Conference final.

On Saturday against seventh-seeded Ocean in the Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinals, Turturro and Maser each scored two goals and the second-seeded Rebels overcame an early one-goal deficit to beat the Spartans, 4-1, and earn a spot in the SCT semifinals for the second straight year.

Howell will take on No. 3 Toms River North in the first game of the semifinal double-header at Memorial Field at Summerfield Elementary School in Neptune, which is set to kick off at 4 p.m.

Last year's Howell team reached both the semifinal round for the first time since 2010 and the final for the first time since 2007 -- a period that saw Howell reach the SCT semifinals four times in five years, including three in a row from 2006 to 2008.

Despite graduating four All-Shore players in J.P. Candela, Nick Spisak, R.J. Eckleman and goalkeeper Charlie Scanlon, Howell is positioned for a similar run thanks to another strong group of seniors and the junior group that continued its promising season together with another impressive performance on Saturday.

"We really appreciate these runs in the tournament," said Howell coach Rich Yuro, who is in his 30th season and led Howell to its prior run of four semifinal appearances in five years. "Everybody thinks, 'Well we'll be seniors next year, so if we don't do it this year, it will be next year.' There are too many times that next year never comes. There are too many good teams and too many things that can happen: a chance that doesn't go your way, getting stuck in (penalty kicks), the group of death now.

"Every year is a different and I have seen that here. We have had some really good teams not advance so for these guys to gel the way they have and do what they have done, it's not something anybody here takes for granted."

Coming off a round-of-16 win over Manasquan in which it scored four goals for the first time all season, Howell made it back-to-back game with four goals with another avalanche on Saturday. The goals did not start flowing until the 24th minute, but the Rebels unleashed early fury on Ocean goalkeeper Zach Frabizio while trying to lay claim to an early lead.

"We're doing nothing different than we have been doing," Yuro said about the difference in scoring over the past two games vs. the previous 10. "We're still attacking the same areas, using the same players, same formation. It's just that sometimes, the ball goes in. For whatever reason, we had to grind out some games early one because we weren't scoring a ton of goals, but sometimes that's a good thing. Now the goals are coming at the right time and our guys are comfortable in those close games."

Frabizio and the Spartans defense withstood the early barrage and Ocean capitalized on its first opportunity. Junior Jacob Gomez served a corner kick to the far left post, where classmate Noor Eraky won the ball in the air and headed it into the goal for a 1-0 Ocean lead in the 14th minute.

Saturday marked the sixth time this season that Ocean has scored exactly one goal in a match and Eraky has been the player to score that goal in five of them. The junior has scored two goals total in Ocean's other seven games.

Howell went right back to threatening the Ocean goal and finally broke through with the combination of Turturro and Maser. Turturro won the ball on the left side of the field, pushed it to the area outside the 18-yard box on the left side and served a cross to the front of the goal, where Maser slammed in the game-tying header early in the 24th minute.

Just 51 seconds later, junior Kam Brown beat the defense up the right side, centered a cross to Turturro, who buried a point-blank finish that turned a 1-0 Howell deficit into a 2-1 Rebels lead in under a minute of game time.

Maser stretched the Howell lead to 3-1 in the 55th by taking a pass from senior Marcello Romano and ripping a shot that redirected off a defender and into the goal.

Maser was an outside back a season ago and pushed up to play center midfield this season in place of a First-Team All-Shore standout in Candela. Maser has risen to the occasion by becoming the team's second-leader scorer thus far with seven goals and three assists. Saturday was his first varsity brace.

"His energy and the fact that he wins every fifty-fifty in the air is what has really stood out," Yuro said of Maser. "He also makes really good decisions. He's got super touch and makes quick, easy decisions, which makes things easier for everyone around him: they get the ball earlier, they have more time to make the next pass. And it's non-stop, which you don't always get from players."

A takedown just inside the 18-yard box in the 64th minute set up the fourth Howell goal, which Turturro finished after rebounding a save by Frabizio on his initial penalty kick attempt.

Turturro and Maser were the standout contributors Saturday from a junior class that includes a long list of starters an contributors: Brown, John Fiorillo, Tyler Borenstein, Max Rocco and Quinn Mills all saw key minutes on Saturday as well.

The rest of the group is made of seniors looking to leave their lasting mark with another trip to the SCT final. Marcello Romano, Brent Romano and Bryce Ocholla were all starters a year ago and Pacheco saw important minutes as well.

No senior had bigger shoes to fill than Martin, who took over for a three-year starter and 2022 First Team All-Shore keeper in Scanlon. After a quick adjustment, Martin has earned the trust of his teammates and coaches.

"Our biggest question mark coming in was Patrick in net," Yuro said. "Charlie was back there for three-and-a-half years and Patrick was playing jayvee. He was doing alright, but I didn't expect this from him. This is a complete surprise. He is keeping us in games, coming out being aggressive. That was my biggest question and he has answered that, without a doubt."

Wednesday will mark the first time Howell and Toms River North have met in a Shore Conference Tournament match since 2010, when the Mariners ended Howell's run in the semifinal round on penalty kicks.

With St. Rose's loss to Toms River North in Saturday's other quarterfinal game, Howell is now the only team remaining in the Shore Conference with only one loss on its record this season.

Box Score

Howell 4, Ocean 1

Ocean (7-4-2)101
Howell (9-1-2)224

Goals (Assists): (O) Noor Eraky (Jacob Gomez ) 14'; (H) Tye Maser (Nick Turturro) 24'; (H) Nick Turturro (Kam Brown) 24'; (H) Tye Maser (Marcello Romano) 55'; (H) Nick Turturro 64'
Shots: Howell, 19-6
Saves: (O) Zach Frabizio 8; (H) Patrick Martin 2

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