HOPEWELL TWP.--- Delran knew it could play with Holmdel this year, and it did.
Unfortunately for the Bears, they were still on the wrong side of the final score, as they fell 2-1 to the Hornets in the Group 2 semifinal on Tuesday at Hopewell Valley.
“They don’t give up,” Delran head coach Mike Otto said. “We talk about it all the time and I know the character and leadership of our program and I knew they weren’t going to give up. We just couldn’t put that last one in.”
Delran answered an early strike by the Shore Conference team with a header from Jayson Vandermark in the penalty area.
Neither team created much separation throughout the rest of the first half, and at the start of the second stanza, the Bears thought they had a breakthrough moment.
Chris Hunt’s shot from the right side of the field appeared to be headed for the net, but it struck the left post instead.
“I thought it was going side netting,” Delran’s Mark Olivo said. “I thought that was in and we would’ve had the game. That would’ve put all the momentum our way and I think we would’ve shut them down.”
Eight minutes after the Bears failed to capitalize on a golden opportunity, Holmdel struck in an instant, as Anthony Arena slid a shot from the right side of the penalty area into the left side of the net.
The Bears didn’t stop fighting, and they even got a late penalty kick save out of goalie Berkant Haliloglu, but they couldn’t muster a second tally.
“I can’t be more proud of my guys,” Otto said. “You come against a team like Holmdel, they don’t make many mistakes and they finish their opportunities. They’re just a tough team to beat. I thought this was the year we were going to get them. I thought our guys played some really great soccer this season. To win the division and sectionals is awesome. Not many programs get to sniff this game at all and we were lucky to get back here again”