TOMS RIVER — For the first time all season, the Ocean City High School girls soccer team showed its age.
The young Red Raiders, playing in its first state semifinal in 17 years, were simply outmatched and overwhelmed by Allentown on Tuesday, losing 6-1 in the state Group III semifinal at Toms River North High School.
Ocean City coach Kelly Halliday had five freshmen playing in Tuesday’s semifinal, including four starters. She has just two seniors on the entire roster.
“I thought it was a great experience, especially for our young guys,” Halliday said. “Tell them to look at the scoreboard and tell them we’ll be back next year, and whatever we need to take from this game is we need to play at a high level.
“We found out what it takes to win the South Jersey championship and now we have to find out what it takes to win a state championship.”
Ocean City (19-4-1), No. 4 in The Press Elite 11, won its first sectional title since 2000 on Thursday with a win over Cherry Hill West that went to penalty kicks.
“No one on our team, even the seniors, has ever been here before,” said 16-year-old junior defender Natalie Stinson, of Brigantine. “As far as we went, we’re still happy we got this far. Obviously not happy with the result, but we’re going to go next year and get better.”
Emma Pascarella led Allentown with two goals, both in the first half. Vanessa Rodriguez and Carly Roche each had a goal and an assist.
With 22 minutes, 12 seconds left in the first half, Rodriguez sent a ball into the penalty area. Pascarella fired it into the upper right corner to make it 1-0.
With 1:19 left in the half, Roche assisted on Pascarella’s second goal to make it 2-0 at the half.
“We had trouble marking the outsides. I mean they had great crosses in, and we just missed clearing the ball,” Stinson said.
Ocean City never recovered in the second half. Just 31 seconds into the half, Rodriguez made it 3-0. Olivia Denney followed three minutes later with a goal to make it 4-0.
After Roche scored to make it 5-0 with 31:43 left, junior Abby Kampmeyer got the Red Raiders on the board less than a minute later.
“I don’t think we got off on the right foot, and they have some dangerous players on their team and they got the best of us today,” Halliday said.
Ocean City posted four shutouts in the sectional tournament, outscoring teams 8-0. The Red Raiders had allowed just 12 goals on the season prior to Tuesday.
It was a year that included a trip to the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament, a Cape-Atlantic League National Division championship and a sectional title. More importantly, Ocean City will bring almost its entire team back next season.
“I thought the pressure was off this game. I thought we could just go out and play our best,” Halliday said. “But it’s the experience. It’s hard to play a night game. (Allentown) is a really competitive team, and it’s a hard game to win. I don’t think it puts a damper on the season.”
Contact: 609-272-7210 JRusso@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPress_Russo
Allentown 2 4–6
Ocean City; 0 1–1
Goals–Pascarella 2, Rodriguez, Denney, Roche, Ricci A. Kampmeyer OC.
Goalies–Howell (2) A. Fenton (8) OC.
Records–A 21-1, OC 19-4-1.