OCEAN CITY — Scoring quickly is every soccer coach’s dream scenario, but for the Ocean City girls team, making the opening kickoff count is something they drill day after day in practice. It’s no coincidence that the Red Raiders have a lot of success getting a leg up on their opponents during the state playoffs.

It took top-seeded Ocean City less than 40 seconds to score the game’s opening goal against Toms River South on Monday in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals, and after the first minute the visiting Indians had no chance. The remaining 79 minutes were merely window dressing as Ocean City rolled to a 5-0 victory and into the sectional championship game against rival Mainland on Thursday. The third-seeded Mustangs got past No. 2 GCIT, 2-0, in their semifinal game.

Going against a strong wind coming off the ocean at Carey Stadium didn’t hinder Ocean City’s offense at all in the first half as the Red Raiders put three into the net despite the disadvantage. The first came less than a minute after kickoff as a ball was played through to Paige Panico and she worked a corner kick out of the effort. Junior striker Faith Slimmer lofted a great corner kick to the far post and fellow captain Delaney Lappin knocked it in with a head and a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds into the game. Less than 10 minutes later Ocean City doubled its lead to 2-0 when Slimmer drilled home a shot from about 15 yards out into the lower left corner.

“We wanted to put it away fast, get their heads down fast and go from there. We love corners, too, because we’re so deadly with them. We just wanted to put one in fast,” Lappin said. “The wind was a factor, but we just needed to stay focused and play our game. We’re so confident right now and so ready to go to the final. We’re just going to go out there and play our game, and hopefully win.”

Toms River South — which beat rival Toms River East in a penalty kick shootout in the quarterfinals — knew to mark Slimmer, one of the state’s best players, all day long and they did it physically. But that’s something Slimmer said she’s come to expect, as scoring more than 30 goals tends to garner a lot of attention. Despite all the attention from the Indians’ defense, Slimmer still finished with a pair of goals and an assist.

“That makes the game that much more exciting for me. It’s a challenge, but I enjoy it,” she said. “This is awesome for us. We’ve been working all season to get to this exact point, we’ve earned it day in and day out. We put in the work and when the time is here we just need to perform.”

Ocean City, 22-2 and winners of three straight since a PK shootout loss to Rancocas Valley in the South Jersey Coaches Association Tournament final, pushed the lead to 3-0 with six minutes to go before halftime when Kam Chisholm knocked in a rebound off a Panico shot.

South’s only real scoring opportunity came midway through the second half but Abby Olexa’s shot rang off the far post. About four minutes later, the Red Raiders made it 4-0 on a tally by Slimmer, and Panico finally got rewarded for all her hard work with 8:29 to go when she capped the scoring.

“Our team is very good at working together and finding the right paths. We know where each other is going to be,” said sophomore striker Summer Reimet. “We come in fast and furious because we’re trying to set the tone. We talk about it, getting on the same page (early on).”

STANGS UPSET CHEETAHS: Mainland went on the road Monday and took down GCIT, the No. 2 seed in the sectional tournament, by getting goals from Sarah Cipkins and Gina Geraci. Goalie Katie Bretones saved all 10 shots she faced as Mainland improved to 15-6 and advanced to face Ocean City in Thursday’s championship game. Mainland slipped past No. 14 Seneca with a late goal in the opening round, then topped No. 11 Lacey Township, 3-2, in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Mustangs will be facing an Ocean City team that has outscored its three opponents 14-0.

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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