When Ocean Township High School boys soccer coach Tom Reilly examines his team’s season, he does so with a smile.
“Well,” he said, “overall you have to consider the season a resounding success.”
Indeed it was.
The Spartans captured the Shore Conference Class B North title. They advanced to the championship match of the prestigious Shore Conference Tournament, losing 2-0 to Christian Brothers Academy. They won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III crown, downing West Windsor-Plainsboro North 1-0 in the finale. They ended their season with a 1-0 loss to Toms River South in the Group III semifinals.
Ocean finished with a 19-5 overall record, including 11-1 in Class B North. The Spartans went 9-8-2 last year.
“We were able to recapture the Class B North title, make it to the finals of the SCT and we won the Central Jersey Group III title,” Reilly said. “That was a pretty good haul. It was a great step forward for us as we had many of the same players back from last year when we came off an average year.”
The Spartans outscored their opponents 7-1 in five NJSIAA games, posting four shutouts before falling to the Indians.
“A goal was to become relevant again on the state scene,” Reilly said. “We played very well, but it was probably a little unfortunate to go out of it with a loss to South. We came into this year with more resolve. We were determined to make a mark and make Ocean again relevant in the state. We had a couple of down years where were fell out of relevance in the Shore Conference, but we rectified that and got back on the radar in 2012.”
Ocean came at opponents with different personalities.
“At the beginning of the year, we were a high flying goal scoring machine,” Reilly said. “When it became later in the year, we suddenly became a little more secure in the back and not so free flowing up front. We went from an all-out attacking force to a steadfast defensive team. We still had plenty of firepower to score goals, but we had the flexibility and overall ability to transition from a high scoring outfit to a team that gave up few goals in the state tournament.”
The Spartans were balanced. A total of 18 players registered either a goal or an assist. A total of 16 players netted goals. Ocean outscored its adversaries 71-16 on the season. It notched 14 shutouts. Its 19 wins are the second most in a season in school history. Ocean has twice won 20 games in a season. This year, it tied the school record for the amount of games played in a season, 24.
Ocean was led by senior forward Marlhens Nasanes, who scored 20 goals and added nine assists. He was named the top player in Class B North by the division’s coaches. He also was a first-team All-Monmouth County selection.
“He was a dominant force in Class B North,” Reilly said. “He was a tremendous dribbler. He was able to collect the ball and take people on. He created chances for himself. He was able to shoot from long distances and he hit the ball with his left foot and his right foot. He was our focal point up front. He gave us more than I felt he would. He was so much stronger and more aggressive at going to the goal than he was last year. And he was much more confident in his own abilities.
“At the beginning of the year, he was unstoppable. If he was isolated one-on-one, he got around you and scored and created chances for his teammates. ”
Senior forward Wadneson Alexis, who will play for Monmouth University, netted seven goals and added five assists. Wadneson was voted the second-best player in Class B North and was a first-team All-Monmouth selection.
“We needed him more in the midfield this year,” Reilly said. “He played parts of different games up front. He was a very unselfish player even as a forward. We tried to get him to impose himself more on the games in an offensive manner. He won balls and passed them off to the other players. That is in his personality. He was a big, strong kid who was able to control the midfield in many games. He set up the people who played in front of him.”
Senior defender Ryan Wells was dangerous on the attack, scoring six goals and handing out eight assists. He netted the winning goal on a corner kick with 1:30 left in the second overtime in the CJ III final off an assist from freshman forward Santino Harding. Wells, ranked the third-best player in Class B North and a first-team All-Monmouth selection, connected on a header from six yards.
“He scored on free kicks and corner kicks,” Reilly said. “On that kick, we worked on putting the ball really close to their goalie as we noticed he held his line. The goal was a huge relief. We dominated the game and had nothing to show for it. It was nice to just win it outright. We would not have bee happy going into penalty kicks as we had been pressing for goals for the best part of 80 minutes.”
Harding played with the poise of a veteran, finishing the season with six goals and four assists.
“He is a phenomenal athlete and a really nice kid,” Reilly said. “He loves to play and gives 100 percent on each ball. There is no such thing as a lost cause with him. He gives us a lot of energy and movement and is probably the best athlete on the team. If he develops, he should be something special by the time he is a senior. It’s hard for a freshman to make a big impact at the boys varsity level as it’s case of a boy going up against men who are 18 years old. There is usually a big difference in size and strength, but he is such a phenomenal athlete that he is able to come in and compete and play against anyone.”
Senior midfielder Joe Abrams put home five goals and added two assists.
“He was probably one of our best passers,” Reilly said. “When Wadneson was out with a head injury for a week, he helped us clinch Class B North. His ability to slot in was huge and it helped us win our first title of the season.”
Senior keeper Yanni Kavarakas was a key force for the Spartans despite an early-season injury. With Kavarakas out of the lineup, sophomore Tom Gleason took over.
“He missed our first nine or 10 games with a bad back,” Reilly said. “Gleason took over and did a real nice job in what was probably an unexpected role as a starter. Once we got Yani back, it was a huge boost to our overall chemistry and confidence. Once he got back, he had the year we hoped he would have. He finished with nine shutouts.”
Another contributor was junior midfielder Jordan Ornowski.
“He had a phenomenal year,” Reilly said. “He has a great work rate. He is a real good tackler. He did a real good job of shielding our back four and being a ball winner as he wound up at defensive midfield. He is a tireless, hard working kid. That position does not have a lot of glamour.”
Also making contributions were freshman keeper Max Winter, senior defender Luis Araya, sophomore defender Frank Astudillo, junior defender Ian Dwyer, senior defender Jordan Franco, junior defender Brandon Holland, senior defender John Loyola, junior defender Mike Mauro, junior defender Sergio Pereira, senior defender Shalin Shah, junior midfielder Tom Amato, sophomore midfielder Job Cajas, sophomore midfielder Steve Carton, junior midfielder Cosimo Franze, junior midfielder Ivan Molina, freshman midfielder James Schutz, senior forward Kevin Astudillo and senior defender Braylin Estrella.
“Schutz played significant minutes against South,” Reilly said. “He played close to half of the game with Harding. Franze leaves everything on the field. He chases after every ball.”