Boys Soccer – Ramapo Beats Toms River South to Complete Perfect Season
UNION - For the second straight year, the Toms River South boys soccer team walked off the field at Kean University Alumni Stadium in the NJSIAA Group III final on the wrong end of a one-sided result, but even Indians coach Ed Leibe had more to say about the way his team's opponent played than he did about his players.
Junior Sebastian Varela scored two goals and assisted another Sunday to lead Ramapo to a 3-0 win over Toms River South and put an exclamation mark on a perfect 22-0 season and the seventh group title in program history.
Ramapo is the first NJSIAA team to finish the season with a perfect won-loss record (unbeaten with no ties) since Christian Brothers Academy finished the 2011 season 21-0.
"You're not going to see too many high school teams in New Jersey go undefeated," Toms River South coach Ed Leibe said. "So my hat's off to Ramapo. Class organization and they deserve all the credit.
"Our guys were gritty all year and they left it on the field today. I'm proud of my guys and what they were able to accomplish. We peaked at the right time and made a nice run through the tournament."
Varela was the difference-maker in the first half, during which Toms River South had the advantage of a significant wind and managed to keep the ball in the Ramapo end for a slight majority of the time. The junior midfielder took four of Ramapo's six shots in the half, including the opening goal in the 12th minute.
Each team took a dangerous shot during the first 10 minutes - Keenan Malke for Ramapo and Isaiah Dominguez for Toms River South - before Ramapo grabbed control of the game in the 12th. The Raiders earned a corner kick and after his initial service was turned back, Noah Kilday slid the ball over to Varela, who hit a low, firm shot through a sea of legs and past Toms River South goalkeeper Dom Pizzi.
Varela nearly made it 2-0 on three occasions after his icebreaker. He missed a one-on-one chance in the 30th and missed consecutive shots in the final minute. He chipped a shot over Pizzi that hit the bar and after gathering the rebound, he knocked another shot off the crossbar.
"We didn't see anybody as good as Varela this year," Leibe said. "He's not only the best players we've seen this year, but he's one of the best players I've ever seen play high school soccer. That kid is legit."
Ramapo dominated the second half by outshooting Toms River South 10-2 with the wind at its back. Varela assisted the second Raiders goal in the 55th minute, which started when outside midfielder Matt O'Shea beat a pair of defenders and played the ball to Varela at the near right post. Varela chipped a cross in the air to the far post and Andrew Furman one-timed a shot into the net.
With Toms River South already reeling, Varela delivered the knockout punch in the 64th when he nailed a 20-yard direct kick to the far right corner of the goal despite Pizzi getting his fingertips on the shot.
Toms River South senior Tyler Egnatuk missed 10 minutes of game time - two minutes at the end of the first half and the first eight minutes of the second half - due to a groin injury that Leibe said had been bothering the center midfielder all week.
"He had a groin pull that was nagging him all week and that changed us dramatically," Leibe said. "He was about 50 percent in the first half and was probably a little better in the second half. He never got into the flow of the game and that had something to do with how we performed, but if he's 100 percent, I think Ramapo was still a better team."
Toms River South ended its season in the Group III title game for the second straight year, with Chatham beating the Indians 4-0 in the 2015 championship game. Toms River South returned nine starters from last year's team and will bid farewell to six senior starters following this season - Pizzi, Egnatuk, Dylan Parks, Ben Brown, Chris Kluxen and Dylan Danelson.
"Their goal was to goal was to get back here," Leibe said of his players. "That's what they had talked about ever since the last game of last year. They accomplished all the goals they set out to this year and then they just ran into this team. Nobody was beating (Ramapo) today."
Ramapo 3, Toms River South 0
|Toms River South (17-4-2)||0||0||0|
Goals (Assists): (R) Sebastian Varela (Noah Kilday) 12', Andrew Furman (Sebastian Varela) 55', Sebastian Varela (DK) 64'
Shots: Ramapo, 16-5
Saves: (TRS) Dom Pizzi 4; (R) Conor Young 1