Cherry Hill West at Ocean City girls soccer

Red Raiders goalkeeper Abbey Fenton dives to stop a Cherry Hill West penalty kick during last week’s South Jersey Group III championship game in Ocean City.

ERIN GRUGAN / Staff Photographer

OCEAN CITY — Now that the Ocean City High School girls soccer team has won the program’s second South Jersey Group III title, anything more would be historic.

The Red Raiders (19-3-1), ranked No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, will play Central Jersey champion Allentown at 5 p.m. Tuesday in a state Group III semifinal game at Toms River North High School.

Ocean City lost its only other state semifinal in 2000 and has never played in a state championship game.

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“Winning the South Jersey title has been our goal since August, so now we’re on uncharted ground,” Ocean City coach Kelly Halliday said. “Getting to the state championship would be the cherry on top. Allentown won its first Central title, so they’re in the same situation.”

Ocean City won the S.J. Group III title Thursday at home, beating Cherry Hill West on penalty kicks after 80 minutes of scoreless play. Allentown (21-1), of Monmouth County, edged Toms River East 2-1 for the Central title.

“We’ll use what we learned from overtime and penalty kicks to mentally keep moving forward,” Halliday said. “At this stage, everyone is good, and it comes down to whoever wants it more. We’ll do what we can, control our emotions and dig deep. We’ll keep it simple and do what we do best.”

O.C. won the penalty kicks round 2-1 against Cherry Hill West as center midfielder Delaney Lappin made the winning shot. Red Raiders goalie Abbey Fenton made one save in the round, and three C.H. West shots went off the goalpost.

“I mostly just winged it,” Lappin, a 16-year-old Corbin City resident, said of the winning shot. “I was really nervous, but I had to stay composed and do my best.

“We’ll give it our all (Tuesday) and hopefully come out with the result we want. We’ve worked really hard for this moment.”

Fenton has 15 shutouts and has given up 12 goals this season. She registered shutouts in all four games in the S.J. playoffs and made five saves during field play in the final.

Fenton also said she was nervous going into the shootout round against Cherry Hill West.

“Coach Halliday said to (make one save), and I was able to do that,” said Fenton, a 15-year-old sophomore from Marmora in Upper Township. “I had confidence in our shooters to put them in the goal, and they did.

“Most of our success has come from our defense. I think we have a good chance to make it to the (state) final. We’re having one of our best seasons ever, and I feel very good going into it. The key is to score early. If we do that, we have a good shot.”

Freshman Faith Slimmer leads O.C. with 21 goals, while Lappin has seven. Natale Stinson, Hannah Nathan and freshman Paige Panico have six apiece. Kelsey White has three goals.

O.C. defensive leaders include Anna Devlin, Haley Harper, Alyssa Liebrand and Tanis McDonnell.

“The key is to work as a team and to have good spirit overall,” said Devlin, a 16-year-old junior center back from Marmora. “Our success is a little shocking, but from the very first practice, the way we were clicking and bonding, I knew (the season) would be special.”

Allentown’s only loss was 3-0 to Steinert on Oct. 26. The Redbirds feature Emma Pascarella, who has 17 goals and 18 assists. Goalie Abby Howell has given up nine goals and has 14 shutouts.

“It’ll be a really good experience, especially with our young guns,” Halliday said. “We don’t want it to come down to penalty kicks, but we’ll be ready for anything. It’ll be a fun game and exciting. We’re hoping to get it done in the first 80 minutes.”

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Contact: 609-272-7210 GGargan@pressofac.com

I’ve been at The Press since January of 1983. I cover all sports in general, but mostly lifeguard racing, and high school field hockey, football, swimming, basketball, crew, baseball and softball.

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