Moorestown, NJ Boys Advance to Finals with Win Over Hammonton, NJ
HAMMONTON — At some point during a high school soccer practice most teams go through shooting drills. But Moorestown boys soccer coach Mike Randall has a different name for that — he calls them “finishing drills.” Meaning he wants his team to try all kinds of different shots in all areas of the goal to try to beat his goalkeepers, so that when the games really matter, i.e. in the state playoffs, his club is finding the back of the net.
On a balmy November afternoon today, the Quakers finished off host Hammonton with a pair of goals from senior Marc Parellada in the first half, then they tacked on three more in the second half to cruise to a 5-1 victory over the Blue Devils.
The win put No. 4 Moorestown into the South Jersey Group 3 championship game, where the Quakers will host No. 10 Cherry Hill West on Thursday. West, which scored upsets over No. 7 Ocean City and second-seeded Pinelands earlier in the tournament, knocked off No. 11 Toms River South, 2-0, in today’s other semifinal. Hammonton finishes its season at 17-6.
“That’s something we preach at practice. People sometimes ask me, ‘what are your shooting drills?’ Well, we’ve gotten rid of shooting drills. We run finishing drills,” Randall said. “What we do is work on finishing, putting the ball in spots where the goalkeeper can’t make the save. Our goalie, Brian (Muhic), is excellent and he helps us out tremendously at practice, telling us, ‘hey, I could never make that save.’ He’s a good guy to have around.”
“(Scoring) has been one of our main problems this season that we definitely have gotten better at — when we’re in a one-on-one situation, not just blasting the ball but placing it where you want it. I think generally we did a good job with that today, we took our chances well and when we take our chances I think we can play with anyone,” added Parellada (pronounced Par-E-AH-da).
Moorestown (14-6-1) got on the board early as Parellada cleaned up a direct from about 40 yards out in the fourth minute, corralling the rebound and drilling a shot into the lower left from about 12 yards out. Then, with 20 seconds left in the first half came the backbreaker, as Parellada scored again, this time after taking a feed from Robert Intenzo off a counter attack prompted by Muhic in goal.
That gave the Quakers a 2-0 lead, and with 18:37 left in the game Moorestown put things on ice when Intenzo scored the first of his two goals. He added another with 9:35 remaining, and fellow senior Juan Giraldo found the back of the net with 4:40 left, slamming home a rebound off a corner to push the lead to 5-0. Hammonton’s tally came with 4:02 remaining on a converted PK from Tyler Lowe.
Parellada has come alive of late for the Quakers. He has 10 goals and three assists this season, and half of that output has come during the state playoffs, as he has five goals and two assists in the last three games.
“I always felt like we had the quality there. We had some underclassmen who didn’t play much last year who had to step into big roles this year, and we knew we had a lot of juniors last year who would be seniors this year, and that we’d have a heavy senior class. I think we’ve also overcome some adversity. We lost a few kids to the MLS Next program and we’ve recovered from that pretty well, especially up front. We were lacking goals at the beginning of the season but we’ve started scoring a lot more,” he said.
“Marc is a two-year starter at center-mid and he’s overlooked a lot,” Randall added. “He’s so steady in the middle of the field, he wins balls, and if he loses a ball he’s right back on you. He doesn’t give up an ounce to anybody. And he’s a great kid and a great competitor. Outside the lines he’s as quiet as anything and you barely know he’s there, but inside the lines he’s a beast. He’s a great kid.”
The Quakers have gotten hot at the right time, as they’ve now won four straight after an eight-day stretch in late October that saw them go 0-3-1. Losses to Delran, Notre Dame and West Deptford, and a tie against Lenape, followed a six-game winning streak that lasted the first two weeks of October. But Randall said he doesn’t mind playing tough teams, especially right before the playoffs. Moorestown is now 4-3-1 in its last eight games, but has won 10 of its last 14 overall.
“Everybody says we’re playing .500 soccer and that gets a little bit under our skin because during that .500 stretch we played Notre Dame, Delran, we played a tough game at Lenape where I played 28 kids, played the whole bench, and West Deptford (in the Coaches Cup). So, when you look at that week, that was a tough week. I don’t think any team anywhere in South Jersey is going to win a lot of games in a week like that,” Randall said. “That’s the way these kids are and have been for a couple years, we’ll schedule anybody, get them out there. It doesn’t matter, we’ll come out and play. Our kids have a ton of heart and they challenge on every ball. They’re not afraid of anything.”
“I think that probably was our worst stretch of the season in terms of the results and in terms of some of our performances, especially against West Deptford and Delran. But that wasn’t the worst thing, it set us up for playoffs and now we got the bad stretch out of the way. When you play a team like Notre Dame, which is one of the best in the state, and we were able to hang with them for 60 minutes — it was 1-1 through 60 minutes — playing tough teams definitely helped us throughout the season,” Parellada added. “I think the expectation with us is we’re always going to go out and we’re going to fight. We knew that stretch near the end of the regular season was going to be difficult. So we’re definitely well prepared for the playoffs.”
So, what’s it going to take for the Quakers to bring home the sectional championship? Coach Randall said it comes down to the simple things.
“It takes kids coming together and enjoying each other’s company. That’s what it really boils down to,” he said. “I can go over a hundred drills and everything else, but if you don’t have that sense of team it’s difficult to win. These guys have that sense. They love being around each other, I love being around them, so it works out really well.”
What’s next: No. 4 Moorestown hosts No. 10 Cherry Hill West on Thursday in the South Jersey Group 3 championship game. Hammonton’s season is complete.
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays