By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
ABSECON — The Ocean City girls soccer team had a tough challenge: start the week with a road game against a team that made an appearance in the Non-Public B South state championship game a year ago and returned nearly all its starters.
Last year, that might have seemed like a daunting task to a Red Raiders team that spent much of September winless. This is a whole new year, though, and Ocean City has a lot of confidence that it’s defense can keep clean sheets, and that, in turn, gives a boost to the offense.
Kasey Yunghans made a run and scored in the fifth minute to give Ocean City an early lead on Monday, and the defense did the rest, making that lead stand up against a potent offense until a pair of late goals gave the Red Raiders some breathing room in a 3-0 Cape-Atlantic League non-conference game.
The win was the second straight for Ocean City (5-3), which suffered a couple of setbacks last week to Williamstown and Absegami. The Red Raiders have a home game Wednesday against Lower Cape May before another tough road challenge Friday, at Millville.
“We’re pretty good as a team with keeping (opposing offenses) out of the 18, so I think that was our main focus, to step to the ball and make sure they didn’t get open shots on our keeper,” said defensive captain Rylee McDonnell, who played an outstanding game in front of her sister, Tanis, Ocean City’s goalkeeper. “It feels really to beat them, especially since they beat us last year, so this was kind of a revenge win. It felt really good.”
“I’m excited for this year,” added sophomore Tori Rolls, who scored Ocean City’s final goal. “We’re all working well together as a team. We just had to stay strong and work together.”
Ocean City had its hands full marking Holy Spirit star Christine Conaghy, who led the Spartans with more than 20 goals a year ago. Keeping players such as Conaghy, Kira McCully and twins Addison and Paxton Antonucci off the board shows how far Ocean City’s defense has come. McDonnell, Julia DiPietro, Delaney Lappin and Julia Bornhardt made quality defensive challenges in Ocean City’s end, and — more importantly — drove the ball down to the other end of the field, forcing Holy Spirit to reset its offense and work back the length of the field time and again.
Holy Spirit (4-1-1-) came in hot, having outscored its previous two opponents 13-0, and had its chances with several corner kicks in the second half, but couldn’t find a way to really test Tanis McDonnell. Rylee McDonnell said a big focus for the Red Raiders was not letting Conaghy get any space to get opportunities to put a shot on net.
“We kind of just made sure somebody was always on her, and we made sure somebody was always there to help if (the first defender) got beat,” she said. “I’ve played against her before, and she’s tough to mark, but I know what she can do. It was rough, but we were able to do it.”
Carly Reighard took advantage of a defensive lapse with less than 10 minutes to go and lofted a shot over the head of Spirit keeper Ayanna Jones to make it 2-0, and moments later Rolls finished things off with Ocean City’s third goal of the afternoon.
Rolls said having confidence in the defense has made life a lot easier for the strikers.
“Knowing they are back there, I feel safe with them,” the sophomore said. “I think we’re doing really well so far.”
Holy Spirit will look to rebound from its first loss of the year with a pair of home games this week, Wednesday against OLMA and Friday against Wildwood Catholic.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays
By DAVE O’SULLIVAN