Den­ney breaks out as Al­len­town smashes way into state fi­nal

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS - By Kyle Franko kfranko@tren­to­nian.com @kj_franko on Twit­ter

TOMS RIVER » At the mid­way point of the Al­len­town High girls soc­cer team’s al­ready his­toric sea­son, Olivia Den­ney won­dered if she would play any fur­ther part in what was to come.

The fresh­man winger had been side­lined with a frus­trat­ing ham­string in­jury and mostly watched as her team­mates racked up win af­ter win af­ter win.

Now that she’s feel­ing close to 100 per­cent, Den­ney is back on the pitch and mak­ing an im­pact.

Den­ney set up the first two goals be­fore scor­ing one her­self in a break­out per­for­mance that helped the Red­birds thrash Ocean City, 6-1, in the Group III semi­fi­nals on Tues­day night at Toms River North.

“I was never ex­pect­ing that,” Den­ney said. “Our team re­ally brought it to­day. We re­ally had to play with our hearts and stay fo­cused be­cause the field, the at­mos­phere ... ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent in such a huge game. We re­ally had to play for it.”

Al­len­town (21-1) faces Mid­dle­town South (14-5-5) in Saturday’s state cham­pi­onship game (3 p.m., Kean Univer­sity). The Ea­gles pulled off one of the most stun­ning up­sets in state tour­na­ment his­tory with a 1-0 tri­umph over un­de­feated North­ern High­lands.

The Red­birds, mak­ing their firstever ap­pear­ance in the state fi­nal, are try­ing to be­come the first Colo­nial Val­ley Con­fer­ence school to cap­ture a state crown since 2009 when Robbinsville (Group I) and Hopewell Val­ley (co-champ Group III) ac­com­plished the feat.

“The whole team wants it so bad,” Den­ney said. “I’m just so happy. I’m as­ton­ished. It’s just amaz­ing.”

Den­ney as­sisted on both of Emma Pas­carella’s first-half goals. The two tal­lies en­sured Pas­carella, with 19 goals, the golden boot amongst CVC play­ers.

The goals, in the 18th and 39th min­utes, were nearly iden­ti­cal as Den­ney beat her marker on the left­hand side and pulled the ball back for the Rut­gers-bound ju­nior to fin­ish.

“This was her break­out game,” coach Kim Mau­rer said. “One-hundred per­cent. She’s hurt a lit­tle bit, but you’d never tell by the per­for­mance she put in tonight. Player of the game, hands down.”

Den­ney and her class­mate Olivia Ricci (one goal, one as­sist) were ter­rific in the Cen­tral Jersey fi­nal, but they were even bet­ter on Tues­day night.

“They lis­tened when we prac­ticed get­ting end line,” Mau­rer said. “They had to score 25 goals do­ing that or we weren’t leav­ing with­out do­ing it. We knew their backs couldn’t keep up with our forwards, so why not take ad­van­tage of that.”

Mau­rer has of­ten lamented her side’s slow starts to the first 15 min­utes of the sec­ond half, but that wasn’t a prob­lem on Tues­day.

The Red­birds buried the Red Raiders (19-4-1) un­der an avalanche of three goals in the first nine min­utes.

Sopho­more Vanessa Ro­driguez con­tin­ued her post­sea­son tear with her fourth goal of the tour­na­ment, another solo ef­fort in which she car­ried the ball 20 yards be­fore un­leash­ing an un­stop­pable left-footed ef­fort.

Den­ney then got the goal her per­for­mance de­served by tap­ping in Ricci’s cross at the far post.

Carly Roche smashed in Al­len­town’s fifth in the 49th minute, and al­though Abbey Kamp­meyer re­sponded for Ocean City 49 sec­onds later, the rout was al­ready on.

Ricci capped off the scor­ing off an as­sist from Roche in the 66th minute.

“At half­time, we re­al­ized that we re­ally had to push it,” Den­ney said. “We couldn’t let up at 2-0 be­cause that’s the most dan­ger­ous score in soc­cer. We re­ally brought it and the rest came nat­u­ral.”

While the of­fense was pil­ing up goals, the back four of Kas­sidy Mul­ryne, Marin Hartshorn, Alissa DeFelice and Lau­ren Coiante kept the Red Raiders’ 21-goal scorer Faith Slimmer quiet.

“I knew we would come out on top,” Mau­rer said, “but 6-1 ... we just fin­ished our op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

Al­len­town is one win away from a state ti­tle, and more dan­ger­ous than ever.

“It was re­ally ex­cit­ing to win (a sec­tional ti­tle), but we knew that there was so much more,” Den­ney said. “Win­ning that was just the be­gin­ning of this whole new at­mos­phere. We re­al­ized we re­ally had to bring it.”

Ocean City (19-4-1) Al­len­town (21-1) Goals —

Pas­carella 2, Ro­driguez, ODen­ney, Roche, ORicci (A). Kamp­meyer (OC).

ODen­ney 2, ORicci, Pas­carella, Roche (A). 20 (A). 8 (OC).

How­ell 4 (A). Fen­ton 8 (OC).

As­sists — Shots — Saves — 0 1 — 1 2 4—6

JOHN BLAINE — FOR THE TREN­TO­NIAN

Al­len­town’s Olivia Den­ney (6) scores dur­ing the sec­ond half of a Group III semi­fi­nal game against Ocean City on Tues­day night at Toms River North.

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