Colts Neck, N.J. - It’s been 18 years since the Colts Neck High School boys soccer played in the semifinals of the Shore Conference Tournament.
On Tuesday afternoon, the No. 8 seeded Cougars made sure that the almost 20-year drought came to an end to keep dancing in the tournament.
Behind sophomore David Tuschmann’s team-leading ninth goal of the season and stellar defense, Colts Neck defeated No. 16 seed Toms River South 1-0 to advance to its first conference tournament semifinal since 2001 and improve to 9-3-1 on the season.
“It's an awful lot of fun to watch a young group of guys that were mostly junior varsity players last year come together and accomplish this,” said Colts Neck boys soccer coach Art Collier. “It’s been a lot of fun watching them do it. They should be extremely proud of themselves.”
Colts Neck controlled the action early, getting four throw-ins deep in Toms River South territory within the first 10 minutes of the contest.
Not having any luck with any of its scoring chances throughout the first 35 minutes of the game, Colts Neck got a ball in the back of the net when it needed to, off its corner kick opportunity with a little over two minutes to go till halftime.
Senior Ely Ferro drilled a perfect corner kick to the box where who else but Tuschmann was waiting in the middle of the crowd to get a head on the ball.
The sophomore rose above the scrum of players in front of the net and headed home the game’s lone goal with 2:10 left in the first half to give Colts Neck a 1-0 lead.
“When I got a head on it, I 100% knew the ball was going in,” Tuschmann said. “I just missed a chance to score a few minutes earlier and got a chance to redeem myself. Grateful for the great cross from Ely (Ferro). It was a good ball and I knocked it in.”
Ferro came close to extending the Colts Neck lead twice in the first 10 minutes of the second half, shooting a free kick over the net and then smacking a ball off another free kick to the box that bounced wide right of the net and out of play.
The hero in Colts Neck’s overtime win over Long Branch in the Round of 16, Tommy Samaras almost made it a two-score lead for the Cougars in the 59th minute, but Toms River South goalkeeper Jalen Folsom made a great save to keep it a one-goal game.
Folsom had five saves in the contest for Toms River South.
A one-goal game still with under 10 minutes to play, Toms River South got a golden chance to tie it with just under eight minutes to go with a penalty kick.
A tough situation for any goalkeeper to be in, Colts Neck goalie Dylan Jacobs came up the biggest of ways to keep the Cougars in the lead.
The senior dove to his right to make a great sliding stop to deny Toms River South’s Peter Mandica on the penalty kick try.
“We practiced that situation on Monday. I made a lucky guess and was able to get a hand on it to make the save to help us hold on for the win,” Jacobs said. “I have a great defense in front of me that haven’t allowed a lot of shots on net. It feels great to be apart of this group of guys and make it to the semifinals when most people didn’t think we could.”
Jacobs picked up four saves in the team’s ninth shutout of the season.
A momentum shifting play made by Jacobs, the senior goalkeeper knew his save would help the Cougars close out the contest, and he was right as Colts Neck controlled the action the rest of the way to seal up its spot in the semifinals.
Colts Neck is on a three-game winning streak.
The Cougars will play either No. 4 seed Freehold Township or No. 5 seed Wall in the semifinals on Saturday night.
Winners of three straight and taking advantage of it’s higher seed so far in the tournament, Collier still sees his young team in the role of the underdog going into the semifinals, and that’s just the way he and the Cougars like it.
“Our guys are playing with house money,” Collier said. “They’re a very resilient bunch. No matter who we play in the semifinals, it's going to be a tough match.”
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