Girls Soccer – A Night to Remember for Ocean’s Pickett
OCEAN TOWNSHIP – For the third straight year, the Ocean girls soccer team played an early-September game to honor a 10-year-old girl who they all saw as a member of their family. One player on the Spartans team was actually related to Mya Lin Terry, an Ocean Township girl who lost a five-and-a-half year battle with cancer and for whom Thursday’s third annual Mya’s Cup game is named.
Senior forward Alex Pickett, Mya’s older cousin, is a captain on the Spartans varsity team and was as involved and invested as anyone in Thursday’s event, which raises money for the family of a child stricken with a form of pediatric cancer. While Thursday’s game against defending Shore Conference Tournament champion Red Bank Catholic was secondary to the work being done off the field, Pickett’s work on the field put a ribbon on a special night for the program and the cause.
Pickett scored two goals to lead Ocean to a resounding 3-0 win over Red Bank Catholic and give the Spartans a victory in their third straight Mya’s Cup. After missing last season – which, of course, included missing Mya’s Cup – with a knee injury, Pickett has started her senior season with three goals in two games and, given the circumstances, it is hard to picture any of the goals she will score during the rest of the season measuring up to the two she scored Thursday night.
“It was amazing,” Pickett said. “Knowing I scored, and I was working hard for Mya is a great feeling. It’s just a great night all around.”
Pickett nearly scored on a breakaway in the eighth minute and eventually broke through in the 20th with a goal on a shot from the left side of the 18-yard box, beating Red Bank Catholic goalkeeper Jackie Robinson high and inside the near post.
With 4:17 left before halftime, Pickett added a second goal when she punched in a rebound off a saved shot by senior Michelle Fahey to make the score 2-0. Pickett was finished scoring for the game, but Ocean added another goal by sophomore Carla Anderson in the 47th minute.
“I was trying get Alex to be a little more selfish in the second half because I think we all wanted to see her get that last goal,” Ocean coach Rob Curran said. “If she could have finished off the hat trick, that would have been something special. But for her to get two goals in this game with everything it means for her and her family, I couldn’t be happier for her. This was a special night for her and, really, our whole team.”
The 3-0 margin reflected an overall spirited effort by the Spartans that saw them dominate the SCT champions to the tune of a 15-5 shot advantage. Junior goalkeeper Ali Chomsky set the tone in the early going by pushing a shot by Red Bank Catholic senior Sabrina Graziano over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless. Chomsky later saved a close-range shot off a corner kick to preserve a two-goal lead going into the half.
“We came out with a lot of intensity, which I think we expected,” Curran said. “Ali Chomsky made a big save for us early that kept (RBC) from getting off and running and from there, we settled in and started to create some chances.”
Following the win over Red Bank Catholic, 15-year-old Brielle resident and Ocean native Justin Condoluci presented Ocean with the Mya’s Cup Trophy, which was donated by Perry’s Trophies in Long Branch. Proceeds from Thursday will go to the family of Condoluci, who is battling leukemia for the fourth time in seven years and is scheduled to undergo an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in the coming weeks.
“It’s encouraging to see so many fans come out to support us and support Justin,” Pickett said. “It’s uplifting to the team, even on the field. We get energy from seeing all of these people here and seeing all of the support that people are showing.”
Mya’s Cup began in 2012 with the money raised at the event going to Mya, who had recently relapsed following one of her three stem-cell transplants. Mya was close to the Spartans soccer program and when news of her relapse reached the team, the players were compelled to help.
“The girls on the team were very close to Mya and when they heard the news about her relapse, they were devastated,” said Alex Pickett’s mother Kacey Pickett, who has played a significant role in both Mya’s Cup and The Mya Lin Terry Foundation. “They wanted to do something to help in any way they could. They came up with this idea to play a game to raise money to help pay for the treatments and they played it the same night that Mya was having her bone marrow transplant at St. Jude (Children’s Hospital).”
Mya passed away on April 10, 2013 at the age of 10, but the team did not want to end the effort after one try. Mya’s Cup continued in 2013 as a fundraiser for two Ocean Township children, Tori Lee and Logan Parker, both of whom were in attendance Thursday night.
“It’s becoming a wonderful tradition for the program and it’s something the girls are very proud of,” Kacey Pickett said. “It’s not just limited to Ocean either. RBC has been unbelievable in their support. The parents, coaches and people at the school have been so eager to help in any way they can. They are a big reason why this game has happened.”
Ocean now has another reason to keep the tradition alive: it has given the Spartans three wins in three years. With overtime wins in each of the first two games – one against Red Bank Catholic and the other against Brick – Ocean is now 3-0 in Mya’s Cup matches, with this year’s win the most resounding yet, thanks, in large part, to Mya’s older cousin.
“The seniors on this team are playing in this game for the last time, but we definitely want it to keep going,” Alex Pickett said. “We want it to be a tradition that gets passed down every year, and we want to be able to help different kids every year. Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids in the area – not just in Ocean, but in other towns close by – who are battling. We have a chance to do some good for them, and we want to keep that going.”