South Jersey Sports: Ocean City Girls Capture CAL Soccer Title
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Soccer is a game centered around footwork, but every now and then you just have to get your noggin involved a little bit.
Ocean City scored a pair of goals off headers on set pieces and let its defense handle the rest in a tidy 2-0 victory over previously undefeated Millville at the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament championship on Monday afternoon at Egg Harbor Township High School. It was a bit of redemption for the Red Raiders, who lost a heartbreaker to rival Mainland Regional last year in the inaugural tournament, which features the top four teams in the league. Ocean City, the CAL National champion, handled wildcard Egg Harbor Township in Saturday’s semifinal while Millville, the CAL American leader, took care of CAL United champ OLMA in its semifinal matchup.
Ocean City set the pace from the beginning and forced Millville into a kick-and-run style, and the offensive pressure by the Red Raiders paid off with an early tally, as Delaney Lappin headed in a Slimmer corner kick in the fifth minute.“It’s always saddening losing (a championship game) but that made us want it that much more. We knew we had to prove ourselves,” said Red Raiders junior striker Faith Slimmer, who had both assists on the corner kick goals. “Ever since I’ve been playing in high school I’ve taken the corners for us. All I have to do really is loft it into the box and then leave it up to a few players on the team to work hard and get their head on it. It’s all them. Set pieces aren’t our whole game plan, we want to work hard as a team throughout the game. Set pieces are a last resort, really, but it’s always nice to get them.”
“My plan was just to get hold of the ball and put it on net. They were undefeated and hadn’t experienced a loss yet, so I felt like if we put one in the back of the net and finished one early, that would put them down faster,” Lappin said.
Lappin came up with the most important defensive play as well a little later in the first half. Ocean City goalie Abbey Fenton came off her line to try to corral a direct kick but the ball bounced away from her. Fortunately, Lappin was there to knock the ball clear from a wide-open net.
“I owed it to the team because I made the foul, so I had to get it back,” Lappin said. “I just put my foot out and hoped for the best, and it came out the way I wanted it to.”
Slimmer said Millville’s kick-and-run style and trying to generate offense off counterattacks was frustrating, but the Red Raiders stayed poised in the midfield and stuck with their plan of winning the possession battle.“We’ve practiced those and since me and Delaney are good at heading those (corner kick passes), our coaches would just say for everyone else to get out of the space so we can just run in there. This is great. I think we’re going to go far this year, we really bond great. We have really good chemistry this year, and our motto is ‘fast and forward’ and we’ve been doing that. We knew they were going to be a good team, and they were physical, but I think we did dominate,” Reighard said. “I’m so excited. Now we really want to win states. Everyone works together and when we work together we play our best, and that’s been showing.”
“It gets frustrating, but as long as we win the ball and keep it we don’t have to worry about chasing the ball after they kick it,” she said. “Our midfielders worked extremely hard to keep the ball and when they play well, we play well as a team.”
Lappin said losing to Mainland a year ago in the title game provided plenty of inspiration for Ocean City.
“We just had to keep our heads up. We knew we had to work harder, and hopefully this will take us to even better times,” she said.
Ocean City’s only loss came on Sept. 16 to Rancocas Valley, and the win over Millville was the 12th straight for the Red Raiders, who are playing with a ton of confidence even without top defender Suzy Dietrich, who is out with a knee injury.
“This year, we have the chemistry, we have the talent — we have everything we need to go far, we just have to show up and play our best,” Slimmer said. “It always gives us confidence to do our thing knowing we have a good defense back there to keep things locked down.”
What’s next: Ocean City travels to Middle Township on Wednesday at 4PM. Millville travels to EHT on Wednesday at 3:45.