After an extended 5-day waiting period to allow for the best possible surf and weather conditions, The NSL High School Cup was greeted with excellent 2-3 foot offshore peaks at 1st street in Ocean City, New Jersey.
Participating High Schools Manasquan, Southern Regional, Middle Township and three-time defending regional champion Ocean City battled in some of the closest Games in NSL history.
Ocean City High School beat Southern Regional High School by just 1.9 points in the closely fought first semi-final, despite an 8.7 score from Southern Regional's Conner Willem in the bottom of the third period.
The second semi-final saw Middle Township High take down Manasquan High in low-scoring nail-bitter with Middle Township winning by just 0.45 points, one of the slimmest margins of victory in NSL history.
This set up a rematch of last year's regional final between the Middle Township High Panthers and the defending regional champion Ocean City High Red Raiders. Middle Township won the coin toss and decided to surf in the bottom half of each period, sending Ocean City to the water first in the waist to chest high surf. Ocean City High alumni and assistant coach Rob Kelly had his team fired up, but the team was only able to drop a 12.7 total period score.
Middle Township, lead by Mike Ciramella sensing the opportunity to build a lead opened the bottom of the first with a series of powerful backhand snaps from the sophomore, scoring a 6.7, cutting into Ocean City's total first period score with just one wave. However, the other three Middle Township starters failed to find waves with scoring opportunity and the Panthers finished trailing by a half a point.
In the top of the second, Ocean City struggled with positioning for the high scoring opportunities until Sean Santiago found a clean right-hander and performed a series of clean re-entries earning a 6.7 wave score improving their period score to 15.5.
Middle Township came back again with Mike Ciramella scoring 6.3 and Austin King dropping a sold score, however the team failed to keep pace with a total period score of 13.3.
Ocean City High sent out its seniors for the top of the third with Matt Rink and Sean Santiago both dropping solid scores for the team. In the final minutes, Coaches Mark Miedemaand Rob Kelly substituted in Zack Greaser and helped contribute to a final period score of 14.3 and a final Game score of 42.5. The Red Raiders looked confident in their dugout with a 17-point lead going into the Panthers half of the final period.
Middle Township went right to work for their final period with Mike Ciramella once again putting a big score on the board on a wedging right-hander, he executed a lightning fast power snap straight into a huge blow-tail re-entry on the closeout section. The combination earned Ciramella an 8.3 and the Game's Most Radical Maneuver. This left the other three Panther starters needing just 3 point scores each to take the win.
Ocean City High's dugout was in disbelief that Middle Township needed such small scores to take the title away. Middle 's Austin King thickened the plot with a 3.5 score, meaning the other two players needed to get a 2.6 each. Middle Township coach Nicole Roppoli was gripping her radio pleading with the water coach to help position the team into higher scoring waves. However, Middle Township was not able to close the gap in the end and Ocean City High School won their fourth consecutive regional title.
"It was a true team effort today", said assistant coach Rob Kelly. "Middle Township was very talented, but I think our experience paid off today with a touch of luck".
Ocean City High School will now move on the NSL High School Cup National Championships at Upper Trestles on June 12thand 13th.
The NSL High School Cup next travels to D-Street, Encinitas on May 24th and 25th for the San Diego Regional Championship.
A special thanks goes out to the City of Ocean City, Nick Bricker, Ed Morgan at Aloha Awnings, Keith Wescott, and Tom Sullivan
Final Game Box Score:
Ocean City High School
Middle Township High School
Most Valuable Player (MVP) - Mike Ciramella, Middle Township High School
Most Radical Maneuver (MRM) - Mike Ciramella, Middle Township High School (Power snap to blow-tail, scoring 8.7)