By BRIAN CUNNIFF
STONE HARBOR — The Wildwood Catholic High School boys soccer team missed out on a chance to clinch a championship Monday afternoon.
The Crusaders had an opportunity to secure the Cape-Atlantic United Conference title but had that bid denied when Pleasantville posted a thorough 5-1 victory.
“Absolutely disappointing,” Wildwood Catholic coach Jim Lushok said. “The boys put themselves in good position to clinch the conference coming in here so it’s disappointing to lose that opportunity today. Pleasantville played hard and played well and stuck it to us. We have to pick ourselves up tomorrow and get back at it.”
Wildwood Catholic (9-3 overall, 7-1 CAL United) would have finished its conference slate unbeaten with a win. Instead, the Crusaders and Greyhounds now each have one conference loss. Pleasantville (6-3, 4-1) still has three conference contests remaining. Any loss or draw would give Wildwood Catholic the title outright. Should Pleasantville win out, the teams would be co-champions.
Wildwood Catholic had beaten Pleasantville, 4-3, in the teams’ first meeting.
“I’m not going to hang my hat on (Pleasantville) losing,” Lushok said. “They’re too good of a team.
“We can’t worry about the division now because it’s out of our hands. We have to come in ready to work for our upcoming games.”
Pleasantville had a two-goal lead before Monday’s game was 20 minutes old. The Greyhounds took a 3-1 advantage into the second half, the Crusaders’ lone tally coming on an own goal.
Wildwood Catholic simply did not create enough dangerous chances in the second half. Its best opportunity to get back in the game came when, with the score still 3-1, Jimmy Kane had a shot from 23 yards nick the bottom of the crossbar before Pleasantville goalkeeper Randy Monroy tipped it away. Monroy also snuffed out Sean Dougherty’s attempt at the rebound.
The Greyhounds put the game away shortly thereafter with a penalty kick.
“One of the biggest problems for us was the 50-50 balls,” Lushok said. “We won almost all of them in the game up (at Pleasantville). Down here it seemed like we weren’t getting after it enough.”
Melvin Casco and Ricardo Exantus scored twice and Elmer Barahona added a goal for Pleasantville in the win.
With its conference slate complete, Wildwood Catholic has upcoming non-conference matches with Salem, Cedar Creek, Delsea, Millville and Lower Cape May.
“The games we have left need to be the focus now,” Lushok said. “We need to push to get our power points as high as possible for (seeding for) the state playoffs.”