By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
OCEAN CITY — The last thing Ocean City girls soccer coach Kelly Halliday wanted was a repeat of last season, when the Red Raiders lost their first six games. Ocean City took care of that by winning its season opener against Lower Cape May Regional last week, and the Red Raiders are now 2-1 after taking down Middle Township, 3-0, on Monday afternoon.
“Honestly, I’ve told the team multiple times that we don’t want to start 0-6 again. That’s how we started last year and it was a terrible feeling. We couldn’t get out of that funk. A lot of these girls were here last year, so it was a mental thing. From Day One, I thought they came into the preseason very positive. Physically, they were ready, but I think the biggest thing was mentally they were ready, too,” said head coach Kelly Halliday, who is in her fourth season. “It was awful last year, mentally. I knew getting the first win was going to be the hardest. And we did get back to 6-6, but I think when you have some confidence, it’s good. Knowing you’re capable of a lot of good things is good. But now I’ve held this team to a different standard. This is who we have to be, day in and day out.”
The Red Raiders had to contain Middle Township star Bridget Ruskey, one of the top female athletes in the Cape-Atlantic League and one of the league’s most potent scorers, and they were able to do that while building a 1-0 halftime lead on a goal by senior Sadie Ford. Goalie Tanis McDonnell finished with seven saves, including a great stop on a point-blank shot late in the first half that kept the Panthers (0-2) off the board. Her counterpart, Krista Salvadore, finished with 10 saves.
“We haven’t played them in a while. The last time we played them was during my first year (in 2013), but I had heard from few people, why should we win? (Bridget) Ruskey has taken down Ocean City a few times. I think this win was important for a lot of reasons. They are in our division now, so that’s big,” Halliday said. “I think the goalies both had a couple of crucial saves. (McDonnell) got a clean sheet for us, which was nice.”
“They are really aggressive. You know with Middle it’s always going to be a tough game. We came out, held our own and we pushed back when they pushed us,” Ford said.
Ocean City began to control possession in the second half, and Hannah Nathan pushed the lead to 2-0 when she made a run on the right side and poked a shot over Salvadore, who, with no defenders back, was forced to come off her line to contest the shot. Anna Devlin iced the game in the 59th minute by scoring the Red Raiders’ third goal, tapping in a loose ball after a long throw-in from the left side.
“They definitely collapsed a little bit (defensively). We were working really well together as a team and getting those connecting passes. We were working it from the outside in,” Devlin said. “We didn’t really have a game plan (against Ruskey). We were just trying to push the ball forward and get it upfield to try to keep it in their half.”
Ford said Monday’s win was big, considering the Red Raiders were coming off a tough, 2-0 loss to Shawnee on Saturday.
“Last season is motivation for this season. We had a tough season with a tough start, going 0-6, but all of that has led to some positive energy coming into this season,” Ford said. “(Getting early wins) was a main goal. I know I didn’t want to start off 0-6 again, and I know nobody else wanted that either, so it’s definitely important getting a few wins early.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: email@example.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN