ERMA – For much of Wednesday’s game, Lower Cape May Regional High School boys soccer coach Dennis Elia had been imploring outside midfielder Dan Cristelo to stop playing the ball forward all the time.
Elia was sure glad, however, that Cristelo didn’t heed his coach’s advice in extra time of Wednesday’s game against county rival Wildwood.
With Wildwood goalkeeper Dennis Olgun well off his line after trying to clear the ball, Cristelo calmly bent a shot from 30 yards into the unattended goal to lift the Caper Tigers to a 3-2 victory in a contest played under the lights at Lower Cape May.
“We’ve been pressuring about not going forward (with the ball) all the time,” Elia said. “This time his first touch was forward and it ends up being the game-winner.
“I was yelling ‘Keeper out, keeper out!’ as loud as I could, and all I kept thinking was, this was one time we needed him to play it forward and he did.”
The golden goal came via a quick counterattack after Lower Cape May cleared a Wildwood corner-kick chance. Justin Nicholas found Pat Moore near midfield, before Moore sent the ball forward. Olgun charged out of the penalty area to try to clear but the ball deflected to Cristelo, who didn’t miss his chance.
“I saw that the keeper was out,” Cristelo said. “The boys were all tired and we didn’t have much time left to do anything so I thought I’d just take the shot. I took it and it went in, luckily.
“I was looking at it (after he shot it) and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, it might go in,’ and it did.”
Lower Cape May (3-8) snapped a five-game losing streak with the loss. The Tigers fell behind twice in each half but scored goals within three minutes of falling behind each time to draw level.
“That was huge for us because the last couple games once we’ve given up a goal we’ve packed it in and hung our heads,” Elia said. “Tonight we didn’t do that.”
The first Lower goal came through Ryan Sincavage after Lower caught Wildwood unprepared by quickly playing the ball short on a corner kick. Sincavage’s initial wide-open shot was saved by Olgun but he didn’t miss when the rebound came right back to his feet.
The second goal came via Pat Moore, who was allowed to dribble right through the Warrior defense and slotted into the corner from 15 yards.
“That’s us relaxing and thinking we can take a deep breath because we just scored,” Wildwood coach Steve DeHorsey said. “Especially when you’re playing a local school, you know they’re going to come at you after you score and have to step it up a level after you score.”
Wildwood grabbed its two short-lived leads on goals by Dennis McAllister. Both times he was sprung free behind the defense on brilliant balls forward by right back Kyion Flanders.
“Those were probably the two best balls he’s played the whole season,” DeHorsey said. “They were right on point and they got Dennis in good position and he was able to capitalize on them.”
Wildwood (4-7) had a couple of chances in extra time. Lower goalkeeper Chase Mendyk dived to his right to knock away Tyler Tomlin’s well-placed free kick from 20 yards on the Warriors’ best opportunity.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” DeHorsey said. “We made too many mistakes and we didn’t take advantage enough when Lower made mistakes.”
— Brian Cunniff