By LESLEY GRAHAM
The Ocean City High School girls soccer team brought home the South Jersey Group 3 title Thursday, defeating the visiting Mainland Mustangs 6-0 behind a five-goal explosion in the second half.
The win propels the Red Raiders into the tournament’s Final Four as they pursue what would be their first state championship in the school’s history.
Ocean City Head Coach Kelly Halliday was elated with her team’s win over Mainland to capture the sectional title.
“I am so proud of this team,” Halliday said. “Back to front, I could not be happier with our performance.”
The Red Raiders, the top seed in the South Jersey Group 3 tournament, improved to 22-1-1, while third-seeded Mainland closed out the season at 15-7.
As the second half got underway, Ocean City came out firing on all cylinders. The Red Raiders exploded offensively with five goals, three off the foot of junior Faith Slimmer, who has already committed to play for Rutgers University.
Faith Slimmer also contributed two assists on the afternoon, one to teammate Summer Reimet and the other to her sister, Hope.
“Faith having three goals today is no surprise. She’s been great all year,” Halliday said. “Delaney (Lappin) and the rest of our defense disrupted all of their threats and let our offense do the work.”
Mainland was unable to overcome the onslaught of offense the Red Raiders threw at them, struggling to get the ball past midfield for most of the second half.
The Mustangs played a strong defensive first half, packing their defenders in tight to limit the close shot opportunities that Ocean City has been known for all season long.
With more than half of the time elapsed, Ocean City finally broke through Mainland’s defensive wall with Carly Reighard finding the back of the net on an outside shot, giving Ocean City a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.
The Red Raiders will next play Hopewell Valley, the Central Jersey Group 3 winner, at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Toms River North High School.
The two North Jersey Group 3 title teams will face off. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Ocean City-Hopewell Valley matchup to play for the Group 3 state championship.