Several terms can be used to describe the 2019 Ocean City High School girls soccer program, but perhaps the most direct and appropriate would be to call the Red Raiders what they are - champions.
Ocean City won the NJSIAA State Group III championship, earning titles in the South Jersey Group III Sectional Tournament and Cape Atlantic League (CAL) Tournament along the way.
The Red Raiders were 24-1-1 overall, with a mark of 12-0 in the CAL, finishing as the CAL National Division champion.
“Some games that stand out this season would be our first game against Mainland,’’ said head coach Kelly Halliday. “I kept reminding the team that they beat us three times last year, and our team came out on fire against them. That game really showed me, as a coach, that the team means business this year.
“The out-of-conference games against Clearview and Williamstown are always important for power points, but also gives us an idea of how we can compete against bigger schools in the area. I was happy with two wins against them early in the season.’’
Winning the CAL Tournament was among the highlight moments this year for Ocean City, as was, not surprisingly, their run in the post-season.
“The second round of the South Jersey tournament was a 1-0 win against Cherry Hill West,’’ Halliday said. “We scored with 12 seconds left in the game. We dominated most of the game, but had a hard time finding the back of the net.
"The team never panicked. That win definitely put more fire in us to keep going.
“Finally, the last two games of our season really stand out. The state semifinal game against Hopewell Valley, on their home field, really changed our team. All the odds were against us, and once again, we proved the fight in us.
"The game-winning goal came with 10 minutes left in the game. Our defense was determined to win that game, and then, the state final game was obviously memorable. The team didn’t care who they were playing and just went out like it was any other game. An impressive 3-0 win in the state final is something I will never forget.’’
The captains on the roster played a pivotal role for the Red Raiders this fall.
“Our captains (senior Delaney Lappin, senior Abbey Fenton, senior Carly Reighard, and junior Faith Slimmer) have been our backbone all season,’’ Halliday said. “They are the glue that kept the team together, and definitely the reason why the team is so special to me.
"Sophomore Hope Slimmer has also emerged as the heart of our team. She’s someone you definitely want on your team at all times, and naturally, the team followed her lead.
“Another sophomore, Summer Reimet, has put the team on her back by scoring some big-time game-winning goals. Her composure is infectious.
"Junior Suzy Dietrich, she tore her ACL in October, but has helped our defense fill her spot but helping the players. Every practice and during the games, she is encouraging and giving some great tips to her teammates. She’s going to be a great coach one day.’’
Coach Halliday noted Fenton, Slimmer, and Reimet as being among the players on the roster who showed constant improvement throughout the season.
“Fenton has been great in goal all season,’’ Halliday said. “During some games, she has not had to make any saves, and then the next game, she’s expected to make some game-winning saves. I’m so proud of the way she has stayed consistent all season.
"Slimmer and Reimet have continued to be a threat all season. "Even when teams tried to stop one or both of them, they were still able to impact the game.
“Junior Paige Panico and Senior Hannah Keane have been consistent all season. Paige has come up with big plays and goals when needed, and the same with Hannah. Most notably, Hannah scored the first goal in the state final.
"These players do not have tons of stats, but they continued to impact the team as the season went on.’’
Everything that was accomplished by the Red Raiders in 2019 won’t be forgotten.
“The team is so special,’’ Halliday said. “I’m so blessed to be a part of this program. By talking with the team, you wouldn’t know our best players from the rest of the team. They truly have molded into a family, all wanting the same outcome. It’s been an unforgettable season.’’
Soon, it will be time to look forward to 2020.
“Whenever you had a successful season, it gives a program high expectations,’’ Halliday said. “Although we are losing five important seniors, the remaining players will have a context of what a successful season looks and feels like. As far as talent goes, we will be losing some impact players, but also getting some stat leaders back for another year. Looking ahead, I’m optimistic because of the legacy of this season.’’
Ocean City post-season results:
South Jersey Group III opening round: Ocean City 8, Timber Creek 0
South Jersey Group III quarterfinal: Ocean City 1, Cherry Hill West 0
South Jersey Group III semifinal: Ocean City 5, Toms River South 0
South Jersey Group III finals: Ocean City 6, Mainland 0
State Group III semifinal: Ocean City 1, Hopewell Valley 0
State Group III final: Ocean City 3, Ramapo 0