Bernards among boys soccer Group champs
Group 2 championship: Bernards 1, Holmdel 0
Senior forward Erick Villagra proved that sometimes dreams do come true as his 11th goal of the season and final tally of his career was the difference in Bernards' 1-0 victory over a stubborn Holmdel squad in the state Group 2 final on Sunday at The College of New Jersey in Ewing.
While much of this tension-filled game was played between the 18’s, both teams had chances, albeit limited.
The defenses on both sides were stellar, particularly on the Bernards side, where goalkeeper Sam Polito earned his 18th shutout of the season, adding to his school-record in the process.
Bernards held the Hornets 21-goal scorer Zach Bond to just a few chances, while denying Holmdel its second straight state crown. Holmdel defeated Chatham, 2-1, in last year’s Group 3 final.
Meanwhile, Bernards captured its third state championship in school history, having won the Group 2 title in 2006 and the Group 1 trophy in 1989.
Group 1 championship: Haddon Township 3, Waldwick 1
Senior Zach Curl has been a prolific goal scorer all season long for Haddon Township.
Curl missed several big opportunities in the first half, including a pair of breakaways, but he came into the second half undaunted, eventually scoring two goals to propel Haddon Township to a 3-1 victory over Waldwick in the Group 1 state tournament final at the College of New Jersey in Ewing.
The game was an entertaining back-and-forth affair which saw a number of shots on goal from both squads throughout the first half.
But Haddon played composed throughout -- impressive considering the Hawks were never on this stage before -- making its first appearance in a state tournament final.
Junior goalie Brandon Anderson anchored a stellar defensive effort, helped by the likes of senior sweeper Rob Mounce and six other senior starters determined to bring home the hardware. Anderson finished the season with 13 shutouts.
To be fair, Waldwick had a pair of opportunities throughout the first half that could have easily changed the complexion of the game, which remained scoreless at halftime.
Four minutes into the second half, Curl missed just wide, but moments later, senior Kevin Kosilowski delivered a low shot to the far left corner to fashion a 1-0 lead.
Soon after, junior forward Mike McCutcheon struck a hard low shot, which was saved by Waldwick GK Zach Neugebauer to keep his team in the game.
Then with 16:36 left to play, Curl hit the ball with the outside of his foot from 12 yards out, which went off the keeper's fingers and into the goal to make it 2-0.
To Waldwick's credit, it battled back, when Rikuo Nakamoto hit a well-placed near-post shot from 14 yards out to cut the lead to 2-1.
Curl then put the finishing touches on the title with his 24th goal of the year to make it 3-1 with a beautiful finish, denying Waldwick a chance at its second state title, with its lone championship coming back in 1995 when they defeated Schalick.
Mike Curci covers boys and girls soccer for MSG Varsity.