EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — It's not easy to score in soccer and that can be frustrating for strikers. But if you keep creating solid chances, eventually you'll find the back of the net.
Senior Tori Rolls and freshman Summer Reimet had their share of opportunities in the first half of the semifinals of the inaugural Cape-Atlantic League Soccer Championships against host Egg Harbor Township, but were stymied by some unlucky shots and some outstanding defense by the Eagles. The second half was a different story, however, as Reimet and Rolls scored within four minutes of each other to lift the third-seeded Red Raiders to a 2-0 win over No. 2 EHT.
Ocean City advances to Wednesday night's championship game at 5:45 p.m. at EHT against either top-seeded Mainland Regional — which beat the Red Raiders twice during the CAL National Conference schedule — or No. 4 Buena Regional, champion of the CAL United. Those teams played the late game on Monday night at EHT.
On the boys side, No. 1 St. Augustine Prep beat No. 4 Mainland, and second-seeded Ocean City took down No. 3 Pleasantville, setting up Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. championship game between the Hermits and Red Raiders.
"The wind was better (for us) in the second half and we knew there wasn't going to be a tie in this game, so we had to score sooner or later," said Rolls, who missed most of last season with an injury. "I like the idea (of a CAL tournament), it's like basketball. We're ready. We're hoping that it's Mainland, because we're coming for them. On Wednesday, we know we have to play as a team and play with our hearts. We're going to be pumped and ready to win."
"The goal was to get at them early and I don't think we did that, so at halftime I was at least happy to see a scoreless game. I think we had some opportunities in the first half that we should have executed, but that's something we've been working on all year and we looked better in the second half. In the second half we stepped it up a little bit with through balls, and we earned a few goals from our hard work," said Ocean City coach Kelly Halliday. "It's very frustrating when you have breakaways or other shots that don't go in, but you don't get points for that. You have to keep working. I thought we earned the win and I'm happy we got two goals against them."
The Eagles (8-3-1) — who beat Millville 1-0 on Friday to gain the final spot in the tournament — had the wind and sun advantage in the first half, and had some early scoring chances but couldn't get anything dangerous on Ocean City keeper Tanis McDonnell, who was filling in for the injured Abbey Fenton. Rolls had her first good opportunity in the 27th minute on a breakaway, but her shot from about 20 yards out sailed high. Then, with just a few ticks of the clock remaining in the first half, a ball was played into Rolls in the box, but EHT defender Casey Biglan made a tremendous play to clear it from danger at the 6-yard line.
Ocean City (12-4-1) finally broke the scoreless tie in the 57th minute when Carly Reighard sent a ball through to Reimet, who drilled a shot into the top left corner of the goal to put the Red Raiders up 1-0. About four minutes later, Delaney Lappin took a free kick from 40 yards and sent it into the box, where Rolls was waiting to redirect it into the lower left corner.
"I knew that my shots were going to start going in, just because I haven't been scoring a lot and I've been getting opportunities," Rolls said. "We weren't getting nervous, but we definitely had our moments where we knew we had to score."
The tournament features the three conference leaders, EHT out of the American, Mainland from the National and Buena from the United. Ocean City earned the one wildcard berth, but Halliday said her team came to win this tournament, even if it means playing twice in three nights following a Saturday game.
"We like to compete and we like to win. Our goal is to win the CAL championship. We're bummed that Mainland beat us twice and we're not conference champions, but we're excited to be the wildcard (in this tournament) and we absolutely want to win. We take it game by game, but we're hoping we're at our best if we play Mainland again," she said. "It's the grind of the season. We played Saturday, too, 100 minutes, but I think the girls are ready and peaking at the right time. We train all season for this, to be ready in mid-October. I love October and November soccer, it's the best time of the season, and I think the girls will be ready — especially if it's Mainland."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays