Ocean senior Tyler Nowak made the most of his opportunities during Thursday evening’s Shore Conference Tournament semifinal against Middletown South.
Nowak was standing on the right side of the goal when the ball took a fortuitous bounce right to him and he one-timed a shot to the lower left corner in the 78th minute.
Nowak’s goal was the game-winning score as the No. 3-seed Spartans defeated the No. 10-seed Eagles, 3-2, and advanced to Saturday’s 7 p.m. SCT Final against No. 4 seed Holmdel.
“We’ve been doing that all season long, just looking for a rebound,” Nowak said. “The ball just popped out to me and I was in the right position.”
“That last goal, we made a lot of mental errors. My kid dribbled out of the backfield and they capitalized on one of our mistakes,” Middletown South coach Patrick Petretta said. “That’s normally stuff we are not doing.”
Nowak’s goal was the final blow in a back-and-forth struggle between the Spartans (16-1-1) and the Eagles (11-6-1).
“It is always scary when you score in the last few minutes because they could always come back and just ram it right down your throat,” Nowak said. “But our defense played extremely well today and prevented that from happening.”
However, Middletown South took a 1-0 lead at 9:40 when Ryan McKinney crossed a ball from right to left and Kevin Monaghan headed the ball into the near side.
Ocean tied the game at 39:18 when Justin Silverberg scored the first of his two goals. Silverberg cleaned up a deflection to the center of the net.
Silverberg then got his second goal at 47:32 to put his team up 2-1, as Nowak supplied the cross from right to left. Middletown South’s Marc Krivitzky tied the game for the final time at 57:56 when Dan Eynisfeld crossed the ball from right to left and Krivitzky tapped the ball in to the far post.
Nowak then had the final word.
“We had a couple kids who were feeling under the weather and I ended up having to move Tyler Nowak back into the midfield. So, he only spent about 15 minutes of the game playing up top and the rest of it he spent playing in the center of the field,” Ocean coach Tom Reilly said. “So, he just showed up at the right time. I don’t know if he had any other chances the whole match. Like I said, he was playing a lot deeper tonight because we had to cover some spots.”
Middletown South did have one final chance to tie the game and send it to overtime. However, Ocean goalie Chris Seager made a leaping save and tipped the ball over the crossbar with two seconds left. Seager and Middletown South’s Sam Altland each made eight saves.
“The best part is if we get past round one of the NJSIAA Tournament on Monday and Ocean gets past round one, we will see them again,” Petretta said. “They are a good team and I would love to play them again.”