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MANASQUAN - Wall boys soccer coach Garry Linstra admits he wishes last year's dominant defensive team that carried the Crimson Knights to the NJSIAA Group III championship game had a group of polished offensive players like this year's team has showcased in the early part of 2020.

The bright side for Linstra and Wall has been that so many quality goal-scorers and facilitators came back better in 2020 that a few of them have converted to the defensive side of the formation and given Wall the look of a team that could be even more dangerous this year.

The Crimson Knights - ranked No. 7 in the Shore Sports Network - faced their toughest challenge to date this week in the form of two games vs. No. 10 Manasquan and polished off a sweep of their rival Wednesday with a 3-0 win over the Warriors.

Wednesday's win came on the heels of a 2-1 victory on Monday night at Wall Municipal Complex.

PHOTO GALLERY: Wall at Manasquan by Paula Lopez

Wall's Terence Byrnes (6) and Philip Lyons (8) celebrate a goal Wednesday at Manasquan. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

"We always love playing these games against Manasquan so to get a chance to play a home-and-home with them is outstanding, especially knowing that we're grateful just to be able to play any games this year," Linstra said. "They always compete hard and it's good for the boys to be able to come out and have fun and get a chance to play these kinds of games. We're glad to get the result, I just wish we would give a more consistent effort for the full 80 minutes."

Wall's goal-scoring attack produced three goals within the first 20 minutes of Wednesday's match and left the rest to the defense and junior goalkeeper Joe Gisoldi. The defensive unit posted a clean sheet against a Manasquan side that entered the week unbeaten and averaging 2.2 goals per game in its first seven.

"It's a big rivalry, so it can get chippy and I think we did a good job in the first half of just playing our game," said junior Terence Byrnes, who finished with two goals in the game. "We lost our focus a little bit in the second half. You just want to play calm, move the ball and score, obviously and you can't let the talking and extra stuff get to your head. We just have to keep our heads and play hard."

Within the first two minutes, the visiting Crimson Knights buried Manasquan in a 1-0 hole with a goal from senior Nico DellaPietro, who also scored the final goal of the 2019 state tournament run by the Crimson Knights. During the second minute of action, junior Matt Murphy crossed the ball in front of the net from the right side of the field and it knocked around before senior Jake Pepe slid it to DellaPietro, who slammed it into the goal 1:41 into the match.

The assist was Pepe's eighth in eight games to go with four goals, but it was the highlight of a short day for the senior striker. Pepe left the game in the early minutes with a groin injury, according to Linstra, and did not return.

"We don't play until Tuesday, so hopefully the time off gives him a chance to recover and maybe give it a go," Linstra said. "At this point, it's hard to say what we can expect, so we're just going to take it day by day. We have guys who can step up if we need it but Jake's a really important player for us so we want to get him healthy and back in there."

Seven minutes after DellaPietro made it 1-0, Byrnes struck for the first of his two goals and it came off a flashy set-up by senior Philip Lyons. Senior Sean Southwall played the ball into the box through the air and Lyons went for an overhead bicycle finished. Lyons's effort turned into a pass to Byrnes, who poked the ball in from inside the six-yard box for a 2-0 Wall lead.

Byrnes capped the scoring in the 20th with another aesthetic finish, one-timing a cross from Murphy out of the air and into the left corner of the goal from the middle of the 18-yard box. The goal secured Byrnes's third two-goal game of the season and his team-leading seventh goal of 2020.

"Matt is really good at beating his defender and getting crosses into the box for us to score goals," Byrnes said. "That worked well for us, so we just kept targeting that and it kept working. We like to use our wingers because we know they can take players one-on-one."

Wall's attack was much quieter in the second half but its defense did not break against Manasquan.

"Our defense was excellent," Linstra said. "Our defense was winning balls, creating opportunities, giving us a chance to attack wide and get good crosses into the box. We played a really good first 40 minutes. The second half was a different story."

"It's all about a positive start for us," Byrnes said. "In the second half of this game, we didn't have a positive start and it kind of carried on for the entire half. Luckily we didn't concede which is a testament to our defense."

Southwell and Chris Cosenza have been at the center of the defense all season and neither played the position in 2019. Southwell was a starting midfielder and Cosenza was the backup to goalkeeper Sebastian Campanile. Even with Campanile out for the season with a hip injury, Cosenza made the move to center fullback with Gisoldi taking over in goal.

"We lost every single defender from last year and we brought back a strong scoring team, so we knew the plan was going to have to be to score more goals rather than to rely on clean sheets every game," Byrnes said.

In eight games, Wall's 2020 defense and Gisoldi have conceded three goals and posted five shutouts. The standard set by the 2019 defense - which led the Shore in goals allowed per game and did not concede a single goal during the entire state tournament - is high but this year's back line has been as strong as any part of the team during the 8-0 start.

"The Wall Soccer Club does an outstanding job developing these guys as all-around players who can handle more than one position," Linstra said. "When we came into the year knowing we had an entire defense to replace, we felt like we had enough players we could move around so that the pieces fit and we could do what we needed to do. Southwell has been tremendous, Cosenza has embraced going from keeper to center back, Kyle Horowitz was a winger for us and he has done a great job filling in at outside back. We're still learning, but it's been a promising start for this group."