Boys Soccer – Ocean Pays Back Wall, Advances to CJ 3 Final
OCEAN TWP. - The last time the Ocean boys soccer team wound up on the losing end of the scoreboard, it was at the hands of Wall in the penultimate game of the Spartans' regular-season schedule.
On Monday in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinals, the Spartans got their revenge against that same Wall team and continued its run of excellence during postseason play with a 2-0 win over the Crimson Knights.
With the win, Ocean moves on to the Central Jersey Group III final for the second consecutive year and third time in four years. The Spartans will host No. 5 seed and fellow Class B North rival Colts Neck on Thursday at 11 a.m.
"We have really bonded as a team," senior James Schutz, who scored the first Ocean goal on Monday, said. "We know where everybody is supposed to be on the field and we know what everyone is looking to do at any given time. We have played a lot together and this late in the season, it really shows."
After a scoreless first half with limited opportunities for both teams, Ocean jumped on the scoreboard after just 1:30. Senior Santieno Harding chased down a through-ball and slipped a pass to Schutz on the near post. Schutz settled it and poked it to the far side netting for the opening score.
Harding and Schutz again combined for a goal, this time on the opposite and and with senior teammate Andrew Shaw serving as an intermediary. Schutz blasted a long diagonal pass over the defense and Shaw ran onto it in time to poke it across the mouth of the goal. Harding ran to the far left post and walked it into an open net to extend the Ocean lead to 2-0 in the 50th minute.
Wall's best chance to get on the board came late in the first half, when leading scorer Riley Powers jumped on a loose ball in the Ocean box and got off a clean shot on net that Spartans senior goalkeeper Max Winters stopped for one of his four saves in his 11th shutout.
Since losing to Wall, 2-0, at home on Oct. 10, Ocean has gone 7-0-1 with the lone draw a penalty-kick win over undefeated Holmdel in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals. The Spartans have already added a fifth SCT title in program history to the trophy case and hope to add a second CJ III championship in four years by beating Colts Neck on Thursday.
"We gave up too much in the midfield in the second half of that game and I think it really showed us we can't afford to give away loose balls," Schutz said of the loss to Wall. "We have had a completely different mentality since that game
Ocean defeated Colts Neck, 1-0, in the regular-season meeting between the teams and if the Spartans can do it again, they will be one win shy of reaching the program's first group final since winning the Group III title in 1996.
"It's a challenge to have to beat a team for a second time but we have really just been focused on the next game," Schutz said. "If it's Colts Neck, they played a competitive game against us and we are going to have to play better this time. We are playing a lot better now than we were when we played them the first time, I'm sure they are too, so our focus is to just keep playing how we have been playing."